Curtis Brown was an engineer, a former NASA astronaut and a retired United States Air Force Colonel. He was born Curtis Lee Brown, Jr. on March 11, 1956. He graduated from East Bladen High School in Elizabethtown, North Carolina in 1974 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1978. Upon his graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, and in 1979 completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. From there he was assigned to fly an A-10 aircraft at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina. In March 1982, Brown was reassigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base as an instructor pilot in the A-10. In June 1985, he attended USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and upon his graduation he was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where he served as a test pilot in the A-10 and F-16 aircraft.
In June 1987, Brown was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA and completed a one-year training and evaluation program. His technical assignments have included involvement in the upgrade of the Shuttle Mission Simulator, development of the Flight Data File, lead spacecraft communicator, Astronaut Office Lead of Shuttle Operations, and Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations Directorate.
In September 12, 1992, Brown piloted his first mission STS-47 Spacelab-J aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. It was an eight-day cooperative mission between the United States and Japan focused on life science and materials processing experiments in space. After completing 126 orbits of Earth, the mission landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His second flight was as a pilot aboard Shuttle Atlantis on STS-66. They launched on November 3, 1994 as the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science 3 mission. ATLAS-3 was part of an ongoing program to establish the Earth’s energy balance and atmospheric change over an 11-year solar cycle. On November 14, following 175 orbits of the Earth, they landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Mission duration was 262 hours and 34 minutes. STS-77 was a ten-day mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. After the May 19, 1996 launch, the crew performed a record number of rendezvous sequences. One was with a SPARTAN satellite and three were with a deployed Satellite Test Unit. During the flight the crew also carried out twelve materials processing, fluid dynamics, and biotechnology experiments in a Spacelab Module. The mission ended after 160 Earth orbits in 240 hours and 39 minutes.
Brown then switched the Commander position. His first mission as commander was on STS-85, which launched on August 7, 1997. The twelve-day mission was successful, and the crew deployed and retrieved the CRISTA-SPAS payload, operated the Japanese Manipulator Flight Demonstration robotic arm, studied changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and tested technology that would later be used on the International Space Station. The mission was accomplished in 189 Earth orbits. Brown then commanded STS-95, which launched on October 29, 1998. It was a nine day mission during which the crew supported a variety of research payloads, and it was accomplished in 134 Earth orbits. It ended with a safe landing on November 7, 1998 and was highly publicized for Senator John Glenn’s return to space after 38 years. His final mission as commander was STS-103, which launched on December 19, 1999. It was an 8-day mission during which the crew successfully installed new instruments and upgraded systems on the Hubble Space Telescope. After 120 Earth orbits and three spacewalks, the crew landed safely two days after Christmas.
Brown has since retired from NASA. He is a member of the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, the United States Air Force Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Classic Jet Aircraft Association. He has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal twice, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and NASA Space Flight Medal six times.