Astronaut returns Yellowstone Park items flown aboard Space Shuttle
Robert Behnken takes a special banner from the park with him into space
by Yellowstone National Park
June 28, 2010
A little piece of the world’s first national park has returned home after a trip into space.
Prior to a February’s flight to the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Robert Behnken offered to take some small items representing Yellowstone National Park with him aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Yellowstone staff members prepared a small banner with patches featuring various aspects of park operations for Behnken to take into space. The banner included two Junior Ranger patches and a patch representing the park’s Young Scientist program. This first ever national park banner to go into space circled the earth 217 times, traveling 5.7 million miles.
The shuttle astronaut returned the banner to Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis during a visit to the park Thursday, June 24, 2010. The banner, along with a plaque containing a mission patch and American flag which also were aboard the shuttle, will become part of the park’s museum collection.
"The mission the national parks and NASA share is outreach to kids about the importance of science, technology, and history," said Behnken.
"We do share a common goal of engaging children," said Lewis. "Parks are great places to learn. Everything you can take in school you can learn in a national park."
Behnken and his wife Megan McArthur, an astronaut who flew aboard a shuttle mission last year to the Hubble Space Telescope, share a deep love of the national parks. "National parks offer us a place to getaway – a place to recharge," Behnken noted. "You do a wonderful job of keeping parks accessible to everyone without letting the impacts of visitors affect the resources."
This was the second trip into space for Behnken, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S Air Force. Both Mehnken and McArthur were selected by NASA to become astronauts in 2000.