Behnken talking from the International Space Station

Reach for the Stars

Alumnus Colonel Bob Behnken sends a welcome message to students from the International Space Station.

A monumental and historic event took place this year: SpaceX's first crewed mission to space, headed by Physics alumnus Col. Bob Behnken and his crewmate, Col. Doug Hurley, from May 30 to August 2. The pair became the first astronauts to head to space from U.S. soil since 2011, when NASA's Space Shuttle program ended. And they were the first in NASA's history to launch from a commercially built and operated spacecraft: the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Before Behnken returned from space, he created a welcome message for incoming McKelvey Engineering students from the International Space Station, 250 miles above the earth.

Behnken, a St. Louis native who earned two bachelor's degrees from WashU in 1992, one in physics and one in mechanical engineering, is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force and joined the astronaut corps in 2000. He flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice, for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks totaling more than 37 hours. Behnken earned a master's and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.