First Black man to walk in space wants others to follow in his footsteps

AS A teenager, Dr Bernard Harris used to spend many afternoons watching space programmes on television. Inspired by scenes showing people boldly going where no one has gone before, Harris vowed he would one day join them.

Years later, Harris followed his dream – making history when he became the first African-American man to set foot in space.

“I always had a desire to travel to space,” said 54-year-old Harris, from Houston, Texas. “I started off working for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] in 1986 as a flight surgeon and researcher prior to becoming an astronaut.”

In a lengthy career, Harris has had the chance to do what millions of people dream of – travel into space, which he has done two times.

“My first mission was in 1993 with the European Space Agency in Germany. The space lab mission consisted of a number of different experiences, which consisted of 11 days. We did a number of different experiences. There were around 91 different types of research.

“My second flight was in 1995 and I was on the first shuttle to go to the Russian space station, which is when I became known for the famous space walk. I was the first African-American to walk in space.

These days, recently retired Harris is focused on cultivating a younger generation of achievers by working with students in Houston.

“I’m retiring now because I think it’s important to move aside and allow others to have a chance. I’m also doing other things. I’m working within my community to help reduce crime,” said Harris, who was recently given the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ (FBI) Director’s Community Leadership award for his community work.

He urges black youngsters to think about space-related careers. “If you want an aspiring career that will bring you success and achievement try being an astronaut. We need more black astronauts for we are under-represented. Our kids need to focus on science, technology and mathematics. It’s important because the majority of the jobs now and in the future require these fields.”

He added: “…They often want to aspire to be athletes or rappers but the best thing to enable one to take care of their family and themselves is education.” Read more on the Voice Online >>

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