NASA astronauts land in Three Rivers

On their way to participate in the Dark Sky Festival that is being held all weekend throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, a husband-and-wife team of NASA astronauts will stop off in Three Rivers and spend a couple hours talking about their life’s work.

“It is rare that NASA approves requests for astronaut appearances, and we have two of them,” said Mark Tilchen, executive director of Sequoia Natural History Association, a nonprofit parks support group that is sponsoring the presentation and the Dark Sky Festival.

Between them, the Behnkens have logged more than 16 million miles during their space travels. Their presentation will include a question-and-answer session and they will autograph photos. 

Although the Behnkens will also provide presentations Saturday at Wuksachi and Lodgepole in Sequoia, the only opportunity for an autograph session will be at the Three Rivers event. 

Colonel Robert Behnken, Ph.D., was selected as a Mission Specialist by NASA in 2000. He has logged more than 700 hours in space, which includes more than 37 hours during six spacewalks. He is currently the chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.

Megan McArthur Behnken, Ph.D., has also been a Mission Specialist for NASA since 2000. In 2009, she was a member of the crew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and participated in the fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, and she logged nearly 13 consecutive days in space.

Besides flying into orbit, Megan also explores into the depths of the ocean as she is an experienced SCUBA diver who conducted graduate research for Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Also making appearances during the Dark Sky Festival this weekend will be a retired astronaut, Dr. Story Musgrave, and a Mars Rover engineer.

The Three Rivers event could possibly be standing room only, so it is advised to arrive early.

For information on the Festival and to access the weekend’s schedule, go to www.sequoiahistory.org/darksky. All of the weekend’s programs are free (park entrance fee required).

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