Press Release

Planetarium to Honor Life of Fallen Arlington Son – Captain David M. Brown

By SpaceRef Editor
January 31, 2008
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Planetarium to Honor Life of Fallen Arlington Son – Captain David M. Brown

Arlington, Virginia — The Arlington School Board unanimously approved a recommendation to name the Planetarium in honor of Captain David M. Brown. Captain Brown, a Yorktown High School graduate, died while serving as a mission specialist on the NASA Space Shuttle Columbia mission on February 1, 2003.

In November 2007, Arlington Public Schools received a letter from Arlington resident George Wysor, a childhood friend and classmate of Brown’s and an APS alumnus, requesting that the APS planetarium be renamed in memory of Captain Brown.

In December, the School Board appointed a committee to review and discuss the suggestion and to make a final recommendation. The committee membership included members of the community, APS instructional staff, Yorktown alumni and current Yorktown students.

The Planetarium Naming Committee recommended that APS rename the Planetarium as the David M. Brown Planetarium, effective February 1, 2008, the fifth anniversary of Captain Brown’s death on the Shuttle Columbia.

The report to the School Board focused on the many reasons why the committee believes the Planetarium should be named in memory of former Arlingtonian and Yorktown alumnus, Captain David M. Brown.

  • As a son of Arlington, David Brown’s life and accomplishments are worthy of the honor and should be celebrated in the community.
  • He is an excellent representative for Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools, based not only on how he lived his life, but as an example of the possibilities available to all of us and what can be achieved through dedication and hard work.
  • David Brown’s life is exemplary for current and future students, showing what perseverance and commitment can achieve.

“The Planetarium is an excellent way to honor David Brown since it is a unique component of Arlington Public School’s instructional program and represents Captain Brown’s passion and interests,” said APS Planetarium specialist Jonathan Harmon.

“Yorktown meant a lot to David as he showed by taking a flag that Yorktown students created into space with him,” said Yorktown senior Andrew Leonard.

“We are all familiar with the saying ‘the sky’s the limit’; well, David Brown took this saying to heart,” said Yorktown senior Lyndsey Wilcox.


Captain Brown attended McKinley Elementary School, Swanson Junior High (now Swanson Middle School) and graduated from Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia in 1974. He received Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the College of William and Mary in 1978 and a doctorate in medicine from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982. He was a four year collegiate varsity gymnast. While in college he performed in the Circus Kingdom as an acrobat, 7 foot unicyclist and stilt walker.

He is survived by his parents, Paul and Dorothy, and brother Doug Brown. Captain Brown and his family were longtime residents of Arlington. His father, Paul Brown, served as an Arlington County Circuit Court Judge for many years.

Captain Brown joined the Navy after his internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Upon completion of flight surgeon training in 1984, he was named Director of Medical Services for the Navy Branch Hospital in Adak, Alaska. In 1988, he was the only flight surgeon in a ten-year period to be chosen for pilot training. He was designated a naval aviator in 1990 in Beeville, Texas, ranking first in his class. Additionally, he was qualified in the F-18 Hornet and deployed from Japan in 1992 aboard the USS Independence flying the A-6E. In 1995, he reported to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as their flight surgeon where he also flew the T-38 Talon.

Captain Brown was selected by NASA in April 1996. He completed two years of training and evaluation, and was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. He was initially assigned to support payload development for the International Space Station, followed by the astronaut support team responsible for orbiter cockpit setup, crew strap-in, and landing recovery. STS-107 Columbia was a 16-day dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments.

Captain Brown was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. He was named Navy Operational Flight Surgeon of the Year in 1986 and received the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Arlington Public Schools officials said an official Planetarium renaming ceremony and event to celebrate Brown’s life and achievements will be held later in the year.

For more information, contact Linda Erdos at 703-228-6002.

SpaceRef staff editor.