BY WALTER OPINDE
On this date, 26th June, we join hands to help Bernard Anthony Harris, Jr. celebrate his 61st birthday. On a day like this, 26th June, 1956, Bernard was born in Temple, Texas. He became the first Afro-American to ever walk in space. He is an African-American scientist, surgeon, and former NASA astronaut.
Born in Temple, Texas, he is the son of Mrs. Gussie H. Burgess, and Mr. Bernard A. Harris, Sr. He graduated from Sam Houston High School, San Antonio, in 1974, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Houston in 1978. In 1982, Harris received his doctorate in medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine.
Dr. Harris completed a residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1985. In addition, he finished a National Research Council Fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center in 1987, and trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine, Brooks AFB, San Antonio, TX, in 1988. Selected by NASA in January 1990, Harris became an astronaut in July 1991. He is qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle flight crews. He served as the crew representative for Shuttle Software in the Astronaut Office Operations Development Branch. A veteran of two space flights, Dr. Harris has logged more than 438 hours in space. He was a mission specialist on STS-55 (April 26 to May 6, 1993). Dr. Harris 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.
Bernard 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. He was the Payload Commander on STS-63 (February 2-11, 1995), the first flight of the 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 Spacelab 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.
Dr. Harris left NASA in April 1996 and received a master’s degree in biomedical science from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston the same year. He is Chief Scientist and Vice-President of Science and Health Services. He is married to the former Sandra Fay Lewis of Sunnyvale, CA. They have one child. He enjoys flying, sailing, skiing, running, scuba diving, art, and music.
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