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Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. Biography

First African-American to Walk in Space


Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. - 1st African-American to Walk in Space

Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. - 1st African-American to Walk in Space

Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. was born on June 26, 1956, the son of Mrs. Gussie H. Burgess, and Mr. Bernard A. Harris, Sr. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from Sam Houston High School, San Antonio in 1974. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from University of Houston in 1978 before follwoing that up with a doctorate in medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine in 1982.

After medical school, Dr. Harris completed a residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1985. While working on a National Research Council Fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center in 1986, he conducted research in the field of musculoskeletal physiology and disuse osteoporosis. He finished his fellowship in 1987, then trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine, Brooks AFB, San Antonio, Texas, in 1988. His duties included clinical investigations of space adaptation and the development of countermeasures for extended duration space flight. Assigned to the Medical Science Division, he held the title of Project Manager, Exercise Countermeasure Project.

Selected by NASA in January 1990, Dr. Harris became an astronaut in July 1991. He was assigned as a mission specialist on STS-55, Spacelab D-2, in August 1991, and later flew on board Columbia for ten days, (April 26 to May 6, 1993), marking the Shuttle's one year of total flight time. Dr. Harris was part of the payload crew of Spacelab D-2, conducting a variety of research in physical and life sciences. During this flight, Dr. Harris logged over 239 hours and 4,164,183 miles in space.

Later, Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. was the Payload Commander on STS-63 (February 2-11, 1995), the first flight of a new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the rendezvous with the Russian Space Station, Mir, operation of a variety of investigations in the Spacehab module, and the deployment and retrieval of Spartan 204. During the flight, Dr. Harris became the first African-American to walk in space. He logged 198 hours, 29 minutes in space, completed 129 orbits, and traveled over 2.9 million miles. He also accomplished his childhood dream by completing his first walk in space, becoming the first African-American to do so.

In 1996, the year of his departure from NASA, Dr. Harris also received a master's degree in biomedical science from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He later served as Chief Scientist and Vice-President of Science and Health Services, and then as Vice President, SPACEHAB, Inc., where he was involved in business development and marketing of the company's space-based products and services. Later, he was Vice President of Business Development for Space Media, Inc., establishing an international space education program for students.

Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. is a member of the American College of Physicians, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, Aerospace Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Medical Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Texas Tech University Alumni Association, and Mayo Clinic Alumni Association. Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association. Association of Space Explorers. American Astronautical Society. Member, Board of Directors, Boys and Girls Club of Houston. Committee Member, Greater Houston Area Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Member, Board of Directors, Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc.

He has also received a number of honors, including 1996 Honorary Doctorate of Science, Morehouse School of Medicine. Medal of Excellence, Golden State Minority Foundation 1996. NASA Award of Merit 1996. NASA Equal Opportunity Medal 1996. NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal 1996. The Challenger Award, The Ronald E. McNair Foundation 1996. Award of Achievement, The Association of Black Cardiologists 1996. Space Act Tech Brief Award 1995. Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, Zeta of Texas Chapter 1995. Election of Fellowship in the American College of Physicians 1994. Distinguished Alumnus, The University of Houston Alumni Organization 1994. Distinguished Scientist of the Year, ARCS Foundation, Inc., 1994. Life Membership, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. NASA Space Flight Medals 1993, 1995. NASA Outstanding Performance Rating 1993. JSC Group Achievement Award 1993. Physician of the Year, National Technical Association, 1993. And many others.

Dr. Harris is married to the former Sandra Fay Lewis of Sunnyvale, California. They have one child. He enjoys flying, sailing, skiing, running, scuba diving, art and music. He is also a licensed private pilot. Most recently, Dr. Harris is President and Founder of the Harris Foundation, which supports math/science education and crime prevention programs for America's youth.

He describes himself as a “dreamer who believes nothing is impossible.” I believe he has proven himself correct.

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