David M. Brown was a varsity gymnast at the College of William and Mary in Virginia when he got a phone call: Would he like to join the circus? So during the summer of 1976, he was an acrobat, tumbler, stilt walker and 7-foot unicycle rider.
"What I really learned from that, and transfers directly to what I'm doing on this crew, is kind of the team work and the safety and the staying focused, even at the end of a long day when you're tired and you're doing some things that may have some risk to them," he said.
Brown's interest in science and technology dates to high school, when he used a short-wave radio to communicate with a friend in Russia, his family said.
Brown, a Navy pilot and a physician, received his undergraduate biology degree from William and Mary in 1978 and earned his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk in 1982.
Brown joined the Navy after his medical internship and went on to fly the A-6E Intruder and FA-18 Hornet.
NASA chose him as an astronaut in 1996. A mission specialist, he helped with the scientific experiments on the shuttle Columbia. He worked the graveyard shift on Columbia's round-the-clock science mission.
Brown, 46, soared into orbit on Jan. 16 with a flag from Yorktown High in Arlington, Va., his alma mater, that another graduate took up Mount Everest. "I'm going to get it a little bit higher up, but I won't have to walk as far to get it there," he said before his first spaceflight.
Brown had said Friday from orbit that the crew was looking forward to coming home.
"As much as we've enjoyed it up here, we're also starting to look forward to seeing all the people back on Earth that we miss and love so much," he said.
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press