Rocketman: Astronaut Bob Behnken, son of Laborers 110 retiree, makes history with SpaceX launch

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Union rallies around hometown hero

ROCKETMAN: Astronaut Bob Behnken, who recently made history as one of two NASA crew members to launch into space from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, is the son of Lou Behnken, a retired 56-year member of Local 110 who served as a training instructor for the union. – NASA photo

By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent

St. Louis native Bob Behnken is making history as one of two NASA crew members to launch into space from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, and it’s creating a wave of excitement among Laborers Local 110 members.

That’s because the veteran astronaut is part of the Local 110 family. He is the son of Lou Behnken, a retired 56-year member of Local 110 who served as a training instructor for the union. Additionally, Bob worked summers alongside his father at Local 110 summers during high school.

Air Force Col. Behnken is serving as joint operations commander on the flight of the SpaceX rocket ship, which launched on May 30, 2020 from Kennedy Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It also marks the first time NASA astronauts are flying in a rocket ship built by a private company – SpaceX, which was founded by Telsa CEO Elon Musk.

LIFT OFF: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in the Dragon spaceship lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on May 30, 2020. – AP/Chris O’Meara photo

PART OF THE 110 UNION FAMILY
“Our union family is proud of Bob’s achievements and momentum and we’re cheering him on,” said Local 110 Business Manager Don Willey. “He’s a very smart, down-to-earth guy – both a leader and a hero, and we wish him well on his journey.”

Behnken and fellow astronaut Doug Hurley were originally scheduled to launch May 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but inclement weather postponed the launch by three days.

PROUD OF HIS SON
Prior to lift-off, Lou Behnken told the Labor Tribune that he was proud of his son and wasn’t at all worried about him traveling into orbit to the International Space Station.

“This is something Bob has always wanted to do, and I never had any doubt that he would,” Behnken said. “He’s worked hard to get to where he is, has won a lot of awards and this is his third mission to space.”

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS: After coming back from his shuttle mission in 2010, Astronaut Bob Behnken presented Labors Local 110 with an autographed photo of himself with the message “Follow your dreams!” and a shadowbox containing a photo from that flight and a pocketknife flown specifically for Local 110 in Space Shuttle Endeavor. – Laborers Local 110 photo

A HOMETOWN HERO
Behnken, a St. Ann native, is a 1988 graduate of Pattonville High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics and mechanical engineering from Washington University in 1992 and was named outstanding mechanical engineering student his senior year. He then earned master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

After serving as a test pilot, Behnken was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2000 and is a veteran of two space shuttle flights both on Endeavour in 2008 and 2010, logging 708 hours in space and 37 hours in spacewalks.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS
After coming back from his shuttle mission in 2010, Astronaut Bob Behnken presented Labors Local 110 with an autographed photo of himself with the message “Follow your dreams!” and a shadowbox containing a photo from that flight and a pocketknife flown specifically for Local 110 in Space Shuttle Endeavor. – Laborers Local 110 photo

A GIFT TO LABORERS 110
After coming back from his shuttle mission in 2010, Behnken presented Labors Local 110 with an autographed photo of himself with the message “Follow your dreams!” and a shadowbox containing a photo from that flight and a pocketknife flown for Local 110 in Space Shuttle Endeavor during the mission to the International Space Station.

The 2011 mission marked the end of the Space Shuttle program. The 2020 mission is the first time since then that U.S. astronauts have launched into space using a commercially made rocket not owned and operated by NASA, opening one more door toward eventually making space accessible to civilians.

Behnken and fellow astronaut Doug Hurley are expected to be in space for about four months. To learn more about Behnken and to follow his journey, visit NASA.gov.


 

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