Vance Brand is an engineer and former test pilot and NASA astronaut. He was born Vance DeVoe Brand on May 9, 1931 in Longmont, Colorado. As a child, he was active in Troop 64 of the Boy Scouts of America and in the International Order of DeMolay. He graduated from Longmont High School and then went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1953. Immediately after his graduation, Brand was commissioned as an officer and a naval aviator with the United States Marine Corps from 1953 to 1957, which included a 15-month tour in Japan as a jet fighter pilot. After being released from active duty, Brand continued to serve in the Marine Forces Reserve while he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from UCB in 1960 and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from UCLA in 1964.
Brand was chosen as a NASA astronaut candidate in April 1966. He was initially assigned as a crew member in the thermal vacuum chamber testing of the sample Command Module. Later he was backup command module pilot for Apollo 15 and backup commander for Skylab 3 and 4. He also held management positions relating to spacecraft development, acquisition, flight safety and mission operations. Brand was launched on his first space flight as Apollo command module pilot on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission on July 15, 1975. During the nine-day flight, the Americans interacted with Soviet consummates. The linkup tested a unique, new docking system and established international cooperation in space. Apollo splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 25, 1975.
Brand’s second mission was as commander of STS-5 aboard shuttle Columbia, which launched on November 11, 1982. It was the first fully operational flight of the Shuttle Transportation System. The mission successfully deployed two commercial communications satellites from the Orbiter’s payload bay, as well as marked the Shuttle’s first use of the Payload Assist Module. The mission was also the last flight to carry the Development Flight Instrumentation package to support extensive flight testing. The mission ended with a safe landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California on November 16, 1982. Almost a year and a half later, Brand commanded STS-41-B on shuttle Challenger, which launched on February 3, 1984. The mission carried out the appropriate shuttle deployment of two Hughes 376 communications satellites and marked the first flight checkout of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and the Manipulator Foot Restraint. The flight of Challenger ended with the first landing to the runway at the Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1984.
Brand again commanded Columbia on STS-35, beginning with a stunning night launch on December 2, 1990. The goal of the mission was to conduct round-the-clock observations of stars and other celestial objects, and they were successful. Brand left the Astronaut Office in 1992 to take on a position as Chief of Plans at the National Aerospace Plane Joint Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In September 1994, he relocated to California to become Assistant Chief of Flight Operations at the Dryden Flight Research Center. He retired from NASA altogether in January 2008. He is currently married to Beverly Ann, and together they have six children.