David M. Brown was a U.S. Navy officer, flight surgeon, naval aviator and Space Shuttle astronaut. Born in Arlington, Virginia on April 16, 1956, Brown earned a B.S. in biology from the College of William and Mary in 1978 and a doctorate in medicine from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982. During his years in college, he performed in the Circus Kingdom as an unicyclist, stilt walker and acrobat. Upon completing an internship at the Medical University of South Carolina, Brown joined the Navy and finished his flight surgeon training in 1984. After a stint as director of medical services at the Navy Branch Hospital in Adak, Alaska, he was then assigned to Carrier Airwing Fifteen which deployed aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the western section of the Pacific Ocean. In 1988, Brown was selected for pilot training, the only flight surgeon chosen for this program in over ten years. Two years later, he was designated a naval aviator and ranked first in his class. Subsequently, Brown was sent for training and carrier qualification in the Grumman A-6E Intruder. In 1991, he was attached to the Naval Strike Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, where he served as a Strike Leader Attack Training Syllabus Instructor and a Contingency Cell Planning Officer. The following year, he was sent to serve aboard the USS Independence, flying the A-6E with squadron VA-115. In 1995, he reported to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as their flight surgeon. By this time, Brown was qualified in a variety of military aircraft, including the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet and the Northrop T-38 Talon. All told, Brown accumulated over 2,700 hours with 1,700 in high performance military aircraft.
For a long time, Brown harbored a strong desire to become an astronaut. During the mid 1990s, he applied for admission into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) astronaut corps. In April 1996, Brown was selected as an astronaut candidate by the space agency and reported to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas later that year. By 1998, he completed his training and evaluation, and was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Initially, Brown was given the task of supporting payload development for the International Space Station (ISS), followed by an assignment on the astronaut support team responsible for Space Shuttle cockpit setup, crew strap-in, and landing recovery. Eventually, he was assigned a flight aboard Space Shuttle Columbia for the STS-107 mission. Columbia was launched from the Kennedy Space center (KSC) on January 16, 2003. This 16-day flight was dedicated to scientific research while in Earth orbit. On February 1, after the successful in-space mission and only minutes from its scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral, Florida, the orbiter suffered structural failure upon reentry into the atmosphere and disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana. Brown, as well as the other six members of the STS-107 crew, was killed in the accident. Brown logged 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes of space flight experience.