Reach for the stars

Alumnus Col. Bob Behnken sends a welcome message to incoming McKelvey Engineering students from the International Space Station

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With a global pandemic canceling events and changing the world as we know it, 2020 has been a year like no other. Despite all of the cancelations, one monumental and historic event did take place: SpaceX's first crewed mission to space, headed by Engineering alumnus Col. Bob Behnken and his crewmate, Col. Doug Hurley, from May 30 to Aug. 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.

"As an engineer, you will see connections between solving problems and benefiting society. You'll challenge assumptions, and be innovative. And if you work hard, you'll be a great engineer."

And he added: "I'm sure you'll find a little time to enjoy the local area and maybe even eat some toasted ravioli or other St. Louis favorites."

Behnken, a St. Louis native who earned two bachelor's degrees in Engineering at WashU in 1992, 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.

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