U.S. Navy Capt.
David Brown was born April 16, 1956, in Arlington, Va. While growing
up he didn't have a specific dream of becoming an astronaut. Although
he thought that being an astronaut would be a good job, he didn't
think it was possible.
a little bit late for Mercury, but I remember Gemini and Apollo
quite well in the Sixties, and then Skylab and early shuttle,"
he said in a preflight interview. "But I absolutely couldn't
identify with the people who were astronauts. I thought they were
movie stars. And I just thought I was kind of a normal kid. And
so I couldn't see a path how a normal kid could ever get to be one
of these people that I just couldn't identify with. And so, while
I would've said, 'Hey, this is like the coolest thing you could
possibly do,' it really wasn't something that I ever thought that
I would end up doing."
did have an interest in science and flying that would eventually
lead him on a path to becoming an astronaut. It was later in life
that his idea about becoming an astronaut would change.
it was really kind of much later in life after I'd been in medical
school, I'd gone on to become a Navy pilot, that I really thought,
'Well, maybe I would have some skills and background that NASA might
be interested in,'" Brown said. "And then I went ahead
and applied. So, I think growing up I really underestimated myself.
And I was really a bit wrong about things that I could do, and I'm
glad I figured out kind of later in life that if I wanted to pursue
that, that I could."
from Arlington's Yorktown High School in 1974 and then went to college
at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. While at
William and Mary, Brown was a member of the Tribe's varsity gymnastics
team. He said his gymnastics coach had an influence that helped
him later in life.
STS-107 was the first space flight for Mission Specialist
David Brown, who joined the astronaut corps in 1996.
The Navy captain was a flight surgeon and naval aviator.
This feature video was produced before STS-107 launched
on Jan. 16, 2003.
"He was a fellow
that really took, actually did -- and still does -- take a very
long-term view of what athletics and education are all about. And,
he's just been investing in people in that program ever since,"
Brown said. "When I look back now, and I think I understand a little
more what he was doing now than at the time, he invests in people
and gives a lot of his time and attention. He certainly did to me.
I learned a lot about what it's to be, what it's like to be on a
team. What you need to know to be on a team. About setting personal
goals. And about [having the] daily discipline to get to those goals."
used his athletic talents during college to work as an acrobat,
7-foot unicyclist and stilt walker for Circus Kingdom.
from William and Mary with a bachelor's degree in biology, he went
to Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he earned a doctorate
in medicine in 1982. He performed his internship in South Carolina
and went to the U.S. Navy flight surgeon school in 1984.
In 1988, Brown
became the only flight surgeon to be selected for pilot training
in a 10-year period. He completed his training and became a naval
aviator in 1990, ranking first in his class. He logged 1,700 hours
of flight time in high-performance military aircraft during his
stint with the Navy. He said that being a pilot and doctor was beneficial
physician and as a pilot, I think it lets me be a pretty good translator,
having one foot in the medical world and one foot in the flying
world," he said. "Sometimes when the medical guys come
in and speak medical stuff to the pilots, the pilots really don't
know what they're saying. And vice versa."
In 1996, his
talents took him to NASA when he was selected as an astronaut candidate.
Brown became qualified as a pilot for NASA's T-38 aircraft.
In a preflight
interview, Brown said that as an astronaut, he hoped to help in
the advancement of science. "Whatever I can do to contribute to
science, to improve science, I think is really great," he said.
His first space
flight was on Space Shuttle Columbia as a mission specialist during
STS-107, an extended-duration mission devoted to scientific research.
The STS-107 crew conducted more than 80 experiments during its stay
Brown and his
six crewmates perished over Texas on Feb. 1 as Columbia was re-entering
Earth's atmosphere. Columbia was about 16 minutes from landing in
Florida. Brown spent 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.
Chief Kent Rominger said that Brown was known as "Doc" to friends
and that he loved to take pictures and had a great sense of humor.
loved cameras and always had a camera with him," Rominger said,
"riding out to the pad I've never seen anybody as intense at
making sure he filmed every bit of what was going on with his crew
as Doc. Usually when he was filming folks, he would tell them, 'Just
act like a little brown squirrel.'
"He also had
a keen sense of humor and after one demanding simulator run, turned
to [Flight Engineer Kalpana Chawla] and asked, 'May I borrow your
brain?' This comment illustrates his humility, because it was well
known in the Astronaut Office that he was extremely capable."
George W. Bush summed up Brown's achievements and life during a
memorial service at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Feb.
Brown was first drawn to the stars as a little boy with a telescope
in his backyard," Bush said. "He admired astronauts, but
as he said, 'I thought they were movie stars. I thought I was kind
of a normal kid.' David grew up to be a physician, an aviator who
could land on the deck of a carrier in the middle of the night,
and a shuttle astronaut.
asked him several weeks ago what would happen if something went
wrong on their mission," Bush continued. "David replied, 'This
program will go on.'"