HUDSON, Wis. (WCCO) — As a farm kid in growing up in North Carolina, Curt Brown always knew he’d someday become a pilot. But flying aboard NASA’s space shuttles would become the icing on his cake.

“I don’t know why I got so lucky to get a chance to do it, but I feel very honored,” said Brown.

After a career as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Brown entered astronaut training with NASA in 1988. His first shuttle mission came aboard the space shuttle Endeavour for an eight-day cooperative mission between Japan and the United States. It was just the first of what would be an eventual six shuttle missions.

Between 1992 and 1999, Brown piloted three shuttles and later was mission commander on his final three flights aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

“You go from zero to just under 18,000 miles per hour in just under eight and a half minutes,” said Brown, who is now a commercial pilot for Sun Country Airlines.

Brown commanded the STS-95, the Discovery shuttle mission that took space pioneer and former U.S. Senator John Glenn back into orbit in October 1998.

A year later came the astronaut’s final mission, a trip aboard Discovery to the Hubble Space Telescope to repair and replace vital telescope parts.

“Hubble was rewriting the academic books every six months or so,” said Brown.

On Tuesday, as Americans stood in awe at the sight of Discovery flying piggyback at low altitude over Washington, D.C., Commander Brown had his own thoughts. He’s conflicted about the end of the shuttle program and what will happen to the thousands of dedicated and talented people who made it possible!

“They (NASA employees) didn’t do it for the money, they did it to be a part of the team and a part of the space program,” said Brown.

On Thursday, Brown will be in his blue jump suit adorned with mission patches, as Discovery’s museum days begin.

Inside a hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Discovery will sit as an icon of technology and a big part of Curt Brown’s life.

“A few more people will be able to see Discovery in its splendor so to speak, in a museum, but it won’t be doing what it was designed to do,” said Brown.

Bill Hudson