From April 15-17, the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium hosted their fourth weekend of programming in 2016, entitled, “NASA and Space”, dedicated to the life of the planetarium’s namesake and Arlington native; David M. Brown. The weekend was coordinated in conjunction with the USA Science and Engineering Festival. It also featured a special display on loan from McKinley Elementary school dedicated to David M. Brown.
On Friday April 15, Dr. Jennifer Lavasseur, curator for astronaut cameras and personal equipment at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, discussed astronauts and photography. She specifically discussed some of the equipment used by David M. Brown to film the footage for the documentation of the STS-107 crew’s training leading up to their mission. On Saturday April 16, there was a showing of the one hour documentary, Astronaut Diaries: Remembering the Shuttle Columbia Crew, based on the video footage shot by David M. Brown and the other Columbia astronauts. That show was followed by a second guest speaker; Dr. Valerie Neal, curator of the David M. Brown collection at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum who discussed the background of the items used in the upcoming new display dedicated to David M. Brown. On Sunday April 17, there were showings of the Magic Tree House Space Mission and Perfect Little Planet.
“Doug Brown, David’s brother contacted the museum more than a year after the tragedy in 2003 to see if we might be interested in assessing some of the items he had in his house. The family had already selected what they wanted to keep; what was meaningful to them, and he was trying to decide what to do with the other things,” said Dr. Neal discussing how David M. Brown’s family donated items from his life to various groups. “He already had in his mind where some of these possessions might go.
“Fortunately the National Air & Space Museum was one of them because when they were boys growing up here in Arlington, they used to come to the museum. It was a meaningful place for them, and they spent many hours exploring in the museum and it was just one of their go to places. So I was just thrilled to be contacted by him and to have this opportunity.”
After giving an introduction to what curators do and the upcoming renovations to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Dr. Neal gave an overview of the items which the museum will have on display which once belonged to David M. Brown and which will now tell the story of his life. Some of the items were from his high school days, while others were clothing and pins from his military career, and then finally some were items recovered from the wreckage of the Columbia STS-107.
“I thought that it would be interesting to students of all ages to give them a way to think about who astronauts were before they became astronauts,” said Dr. Neal discussing her ideas for putting together the David M. Brown display. “What are they like as kids? What are they like as teenagers? What are they like in school? Seeing a varsity letter might help kids themselves figure out what their special talents and interests are.”
The Friends will host special events at the David M. Brown Planetarium one weekend every month until the end of the school year. Each weekend will be geared towards increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education/awareness for all ages and will feature a specific theme. For more information, visit the Friends’ website. The theme for May’s weekend will be Transits and Eclipses.