Earning a place in space flight history

Earning a place in space flight historyNASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, right, participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. (NASA Photo)

A hometown hero was recently honored in Washington, D.C. and received a prestigious award. When you command the first Space X mission as part of NASA’s inaugural Commercial Crew Mission to the International Space Station, and then are the last pilot to fly a retiring space shuttle, the Shuttle Atlantis, you indeed get noticed across the U.S. and world.

Back in his hometown of Apalachin, N.Y. and high school in Owego, N.Y., the community is beaming with pride.   

Apalachin native Douglas Hurley, a U.S. Marine veteran, along with Robert Behnken, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and both former NASA astronauts, were awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for their bravery in NASA’s SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) in 2020 to the International Space Station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 30, 2020 launched to the space station, which marked the first mission with astronauts as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. That venture with a private company also marked the first flight in nearly a decade. 

Longtime friends and colleagues, and known casually as Doug and Bob, were both military test pilots before joining NASA in 2000. They will now be remembered for their combined efforts, which put the spotlight on American leadership in human spaceflight.

Vice President Kamala Harris presented Hurley and Behnken with their awards on Jan. 31 in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress, the current Administration, NASA and the Military, among others, gathered for the ceremony.

According to NASA.gov, Hurley and Behnken are the first recipients to receive the honor since 2006. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by Congress in 1969 to recognize an astronaut who has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the nation and humanity.

Since then, 30 individuals in total have been awarded, including the crews of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia disasters, posthumously. Hurley and Behnken, the 29th and 30th, join a notable list of previous awardees, such as Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and John Glenn, to name a few.

During the ceremony, Harris noted, “Space is a family business,” and shared that Doug’s wife, Karen, had made multiple trips to the national space station and Bob’s wife, Meghan, had helped repair the Hubble space telescope, and both in their roles as astronauts.

Harris thanked both families for their service to our nation and planet, and said, “It turns out it takes a whole family to do the kind of work that allows us to explore the universe.”

Hurley’s impressive resume includes; former military test pilot, a civil engineer, a retired U.S. Marine Colonel, and an astronaut. During his trailblazing career, Hurley flew two space shuttle missions prior to the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2.

Hurley spent a total of 93 days in space and contributed hundreds of hours to scientific discovery on the International Space Station. He has helped NASA and the U.S. open a new era of human space travel.

Hurley is a 1984 graduate of Owego Free Academy, a past inductee to the OA Wall of Fame, and made a return visit in 2009 to visit the campus, and where he spoke to students about not giving up on their dreams.  

According to his website, Hurley currently resides in Park City, Utah with his wife, Astronaut Karen Nyberg, and their son Jack.

To learn more about Astronaut Hurley, visit doughurleyastronaut.com or     www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/douglas-g-hurley.

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