Bernard Anthony Harris Jr. (born June 26, 1956) is a former NASA astronaut. On February 9, 1995, Harris became the first African American to perform an extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk), during the second of his two Space Shuttle flights.


Bernard Anthony Harris Jr. (born June 26, 1956) is a former NASA astronaut. On February 9, 1995, Harris became the first African American to perform an extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk), during the second of his two Space Shuttle flights.

Bernard Harris
Bernard Anthony Harris Jr.

(1956-06-26) June 26, 1956 (age 67)
EducationUniversity of Houston (BS, MBA)
Texas Tech University (MD)
University of Texas, Galveston (MS)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
18d 6h 8m
SelectionNASA Group 13 (1990)
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
4h 39m
Mission insignia

Early life

Harris was born on June 26, 1956 in Temple, Texas. His parents were Bernard A. Harris, Sr. and Gussie Emanual Harris.[1] His parents divorced when he was six years old and seeing his father, who had only a tenth grade education, struggle to find work inspired Harris to pursue STEM.[2]

Harris first became interested in being an astronaut after watching the Apollo 11 mission on TV in 1969 at 13 years old. With the help of his science teacher, he formed a science club and a rocket club with some other students.[3]


Harris graduated from Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, Texas, in 1974, where he was actively involved in science fairs, book clubs and other school activities[citation needed]. He received a B.S. degree in biology from University of Houston in 1978.[4][5] He earned his MD degree from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in 1982. Harris completed a residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1985. Harris is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.[5]

Harris completed a National Research Council Fellowship at NASA's Ames Research Center in 1987.[6] While at Ames, he conducted research in musculature physiology and disuse.[5]

He also trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio in 1988.[4][6] Dr. Harris received a master's degree in biomedical science from The University of Texas Medical Branch in 1996, and an MBA from the University of Houston (1999). Harris is also a licensed private pilot and certified scuba diver.[5]

After completing his fellowship at NASA Ames, he joined NASA's Johnson Space Center as a clinical scientist and flight surgeon, where he conducted clinical investigations of space adaptation and developed countermeasures for extended duration space flight.

He was the first African American man to go in space as one of NASA's research teams and he was involved in the construction of the space rovers.[citation needed]

Astronaut experience

Selected by NASA in January 1990, Harris became an astronaut in July 1991, and qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. He served as the crew representative for Shuttle Software in the Astronaut Office Operations Development Branch. Harris was assigned as a mission specialist on STS-55, Spacelab D-2, in August 1991. He flew on board Columbia for ten days, (26 April 1993 – 6 May 1993); on the mission the Shuttle reached one year of accumulated flight time. Harris was part of the payload crew of Spacelab D-2, conducting a variety of research in physical and life sciences. During this flight, Harris logged over 239 hours and 4,164,183 miles in space.[5]

His second mission was as the payload commander on STS-63 ( February 2, 1995 – February 11, 1995), the first flight of the new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the first rendezvous (but not docking) with the Russian space station Mir and retrieval of Spartan 204 satellite. During the flight, Harris became the first African-American to walk in space, while fellow astronaut Michael Foale became the first British-born spacewalker.[7] (It was also on this flight that Eileen Collins became the first female Shuttle pilot.) On this mission, Harris logged 198 hours, 29 minutes in space, completed 129 orbits, and traveled over 2.9 million miles.[5]

Post-NASA career

Harris at the 2014 TouchTomorrow Festival held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Harris left NASA in April 1996, but has continued research.[citation needed] He served as Vice President of SPACEHAB, Inc., and innovative space commercialization company, where he directed the company's space science business. He also served as Vice President of Business Development for Space Media, Inc., an Informatics company, establishing an e-commerce initiative that is now part of the United Nations' education program.[citation needed]

In 1998, he founded The Harris Foundation, a Houston, Texas-based non-profit organization, whose stated mission is "to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. THF supports programs that empower individuals, in particular minorities and other economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams."[8]

In 2008, he appeared in Microsoft's "I'm a P.C." ad campaign.[citation needed] Harris also gave a keynote speech at the Exxon Mobil Texas State Science and Engineering Fair.[citation needed]

In 2009, he was elected Vice President of the American Telemedicine Association.[citation needed] He was elected President of the American Telemedicine Association in 2011, serving for a one-year term that ended in 2012.[9]

In 2010, he was part of the Dream Tour where he travelled to over 30 schools around the country.[citation needed]

Currently, Dr. Harris is CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative and President and Chief Executive Officer of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital accelerator, that invests in early-stage companies in Medical Informatics and Technology.[10][11]

As of April 19, 2021, Harris serves on the board of directors for commercial aerospace and weapons manufacturer Raytheon Technologies.[12]

Organizations and honors

Harris is a member of many professional, academic and service organizations, including the following:

He has served as a board member for the following organizations:

He has been recognized several times by NASA and other organizations for his professional and academic achievements. Harris has also received a number of other honorary doctorates from the following institutions:

He has also received the following awards:

In 2005, the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas named a middle school under construction after Harris.[28] Bernard Harris Middle School opened August 14, 2006, to have a capacity of 1500 students.[29]

Personal life

In 1989, Harris married Sandra Fay Lewis. In 1992, the couple had a daughter named Brooke Alexandria Harris. Harris and Lewis divorced in 2008.[30]

See also


  1. ^ "Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr". History Makers. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  2. ^ "NASA Astronaut Looks to Inspire Next Generation". The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  3. ^ Holeywell, Ryan (2019-06-28). "Astronaut and TMC Board Member Bernard A. Harris Jr. reflects on the moon landing". TMC News. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  4. ^ a b c "Bernard A. Harris". Horatio Alger. 14 February 2024. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "BERNARD A. HARRIS, JR., (M.D.) NASA ASTRONAUT" (PDF). NASA. January 1999. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Bernard Harris Jr. | Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University". Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  7. ^ "1995: Space pioneers take first small steps". On This Day: February 9. London: BBC. 1995-02-09. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  8. ^ "Bernard Harris, ExxonMobil Announce 20 New Summer Camps". ExxonMobil. Business Wire. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  9. ^ "Past Presidents". ATA. Retrieved 2024-02-28.
  10. ^ "National Math and Science Initiative - Bernard A. Harris, Jr". Archived from the original on 2018-10-06. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  11. ^ "MANAGEMENT TEAM". Vesalius Ventures. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "Raytheon Technologies Appoints Bernard A. Harris Jr. To Board of Directors".
  13. ^ "Phi Kappa Phi Celebrates Black History Month". Phi Kappa Phi. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  14. ^ watchtheyard (2017-02-21). "The First Black Person to Walk in Outer Space was a Member of Kappa Alpha Psi". Watch The Yard. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  15. ^ Adam, Young (2010-12-03). "First black space walker, former Texas Tech regents talks education with Lubbock audience". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  16. ^ "Learn about Spacewalker Bernard Harris". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  17. ^ a b "Congratulations to Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., 2022 Recipient of the James Bryant Conant Award". National Math and Science Initiative. 2022-06-22. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  18. ^ a b c "Dr. Bernard Harris". Concordia. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  19. ^ "UHart Celebrates Black History Month". Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  20. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Special Collections and University Archives". Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  21. ^ "W&J Receives Select ExxonMobil Grant to Offer Summer Science Camp". Washington & Jefferson College. 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  22. ^ "Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. Pioneering Astronaut and President of the Harris Foundation, Named WPI's 2015 Commencement Speaker". 2015-04-24. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  23. ^ Gonsalves, Susan (2015-05-16). "WPI graduation: Astronaut tells Class of 2015 to pursue 'infinite possibilities'". The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  24. ^ "Honorary Degree - University of Houston". Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  25. ^ "Honorary Doctoral Degree Recipients: University of Houston" (PDF). University of Houston. 2021. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  26. ^ "Physician, Astronaut Bernard Harris to Address Graduates at Bicentennial Commencement | Saint Joseph's University". 2021-02-22. Retrieved 2024-02-09.
  27. ^ "National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award". National Space Grant Foundation. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  28. ^ "Our Campus / Harris Campus Tour". Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  29. ^ "Harris Middle School". Archived from the original on 15 April 2023. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  30. ^ Wilson, Claire (2022-01-11). "From Trekkie to Space Traveler: Texas Astronaut Inspires Youth to Dream Big". Texasliving. Retrieved 2024-02-14.

External links

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