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Couple who died in Oro Valley crash were parents of astronaut Laurel Clark

Couple who died in Oro Valley crash were parents of astronaut Laurel Clark

Margory Brown, left, NASA astronaut Laurel B. Clark and Richard Brown pose in a family photo in January 2003, a few days before Clark went up in to orbit on the space shuttle Columbia. Clark was one of the seven crew members who died when the Columbia broke apart over Texas as it returned to Earth.

The couple that died in a crash in Oro Valley on Wednesday were the mother and stepfather of an astronaut who died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

Margory and Richard Brown, both 85, died Wednesday morning after a crash on West Tangerine Road at North La Cañada Drive.

The Browns were traveling eastbound on Tangerine in a Toyota Rav 4, approaching La Cañada when a Ford Raptor driven by a 19-year-old man made a U-Turn, according to a news release from Oro Valley police.

The two cars crashed, pushing the Toyota Rav 4 into the path of an oncoming tow truck that was also eastbound, police said.

The second crash caused the Rav 4 to hit a tree.

Margory Brown was the mother of Laurel Clark, one of seven astronauts who died Feb. 1, 2003, after the space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry.

Margory Brown, mother of astronaut Capt. Laurel B. Clark, who died when Space Shuttle Columbia which broke apart over Texas, is lost in thought at her home in Tucson in 2003. "It was due for this. … I knew it could happen," she said of the disaster.

Clark would visit her mother and stepfather in Tucson every year, hiking in Catalina State Park when she visited, Arizona Daily Star archives show.

After Clark died, Margory Brown searched for a way to honor her daughter.

In September 2006, officials dedicated a 20-foot bronze sculpture of a Harris’ hawk spreading its wings atop a saguaro, a permanent exhibit at the Arizona Desert Museum, in memory of Clark.

The Browns chose a Harris’ hawk image to memorialize Clark because the birds often work in teams of seven, like the space shuttle team of astronauts, Daily Star archives said.

Margory Brown also helped start the Laurel Clark Earth Camp at the Desert Museum, a two-week summer program for children entering 8th and 9th grades. The program, in place since at least 2005, shows children what it might be like to become a botanist, ecologist, ornithologist, marine biologist or geologist.

The Browns moved to the Racine, Wisconsin, area when Clark was a high school freshman, The Journal Times of Racine reported Friday.

Dan Salton, Laurel Clark’s brother, told The Journal Times the Browns were returning from an appointment with their dog when the crash happened. The dog, Orion, whom the couple named for Clark’s favorite constellation, was taken to a veterinary hospital but had to be euthanized because of a spinal injury, Salton told The Journal Times.

This file photo released by NASA shows STS-107 crew members in their group photo. Space Shuttle Columbia crew, left to right, front row, Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool, back row, David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon are shown in this undated crew photo. Columbia was destroyed on February 1, 2003, on its return to Earth because of a hole in its wing that allowed in superhot atmospheric gases. The hole was caused by a piece of foam insulation that struck the spacecraft days earlier when it was launched.

Ian Clark, 8, son of Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut Capt. Laurel Clark, looks down at her casket as he departs her funeral at Arlington National Cemetery March 10, 2003. Capt. Laurel Clark and six other Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts were killed upon reentry to earth 16 minutes prior to landing on February 1, 2003.

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Stephanie is a Tucson native and graduated from the University of Arizona in 2014. She worked for newspapers in Rapid City, South Dakota; Manhattan, Kansas; and Lake Havasu City before moving back to Tucson.

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