SpaceX Astronauts Went to National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The two astronauts who were launched into space earlier this month have some Wyoming ties through Lander’s National Outdoor Leadership School.

According to an alumni email sent out by NOLS, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are graduates of the program, but it was unclear when they attended.

NOLS is based in Lander and is a nonprofit global wilderness school that also teaches leadership skills.

Behnken and Hurley were the two astronauts onboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that was launched into space on June 1, heading for the International Space Station.

The mission was an end-to-end test flight to validate the craft’s crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This was SpaceX’s first test with astronauts aboard.

In a NOLS blog post from 2015 that referenced Behnken and Hurley as graduates, it was stated that the school and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had designed custom courses that allowed astronauts to develop leadership skills and expedition behavior in sometimes uncomfortable and stressful environments.

“The most common NOLS courses for astronauts are 10 day winter courses near Togwotee Pass in Wyoming,” the blog read. “With temperatures down to 20 degrees (below zero) Fahrenheit, astronauts, now students, practice staying completely covered in layers and remaining warm, just like they would in the depths of space. The difficulties encountered on course allow NASA to better examine potential crew members’ reactions to adversity and how they work together as a group under stress.”

Behnken was the joint operations commander for the SpaceX mission and was responsible for activities such as the rendezvous, docking and undocking. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.

Hurley was the spacecraft commander for the mission and was responsible for launch, landing and recovery. He was also selected as an astronaut in 2000 and has completed two spaceflights.

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