CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Bladen County’s favorite son, Curtis Brown Jr., joined an elite group of individuals this past weekend when he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The ceremony was held at the Kennedy Space Center and was attended by family and friends of Brown’s and two of his fellow inductees.
“It’s a great honor. I’m very surprised I was inducted,” said Brown.
He said on the day he received the telephone call notifying him of the nomination, he was out of town. Brown said he called home and his wife Mary had taken the message. He said when Mary relayed the message and who it was from, Brown said he wondered what was happening, since he had not spoken to the individual who called in some time.
“I called him back and he told me I was nominated …. and that we’d get together in April,” said Brown.
He added it is a real honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with the folks who launched Gemini and Apollo missions. He joins such space pioneers as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and Scott Carpenter.
“They were heroes of mine,” said Brown of those astronauts.
Brown was presented his Astronaut Hall of Fame medal by fellow former astronaut Charlie Duke.
The Elizabethtown Town Council adopted a resolution of recognition in honor of the occasion in February.
Brown, who is a graduate of East Bladen High School, was confirmed by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for the honor, according to reports. Brown was joined by fellow astronauts, Eileen Collins, the first woman to ever lead a shuttle mission, and Bonnie Dunbar, who managed life and science experiments on Spacelab and Mir.
Brown flew on six space shuttle missions and logged more than 1,383 hours in space, according to his biography with NASA. He piloted STS-47 in 1992, STS-66 in 1994 and STS-77 in 1996 and was commander for STS-85 in 1997 and STS-95 in 1998 and STS-103 in 1999, according to NASA.
Brown’s 1998 flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery was historic because he was joined on the flight by 77-year-old retired astronaut John Glenn.
Brown’s final mission for NASA in the space shuttle program was the third mission to service the Hubble Telescope which broke records as the highest orbit ever achieved by the space shuttle. Brown and his crew were reported to be 378 miles above the earth during that mission.
Brown earned his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1978.
Brown also returns to Elizabethtown once a year with friends who are motorcycle enthusiasts and awards a scholarship to a high school senior who plans to study science- or math-related fields in college.
“Mary and I want to give back to the community,” said Brown of establishing the scholarship. “When I was a child, we (Brown’s family) owned a hardware store there.”
He added anecdotally, “Most of the town raised me. I couldn’t get away with anything.”
Brown said he wanted to give back to the county and the community that has been so supportive of the space program.
“It is very, very important the students of Bladen County realize they can achieve their dreams,” said Brown. “My dream was to fly … I pursued my dream to fly.”
Brown said the scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior later this spring.