Astronaut shares experiences with students, space gives new perspective on race
Dr. Bernard Anthony Harris, the first African-American astronaut, discussed his book “Dream Walker” and shared his life experiences with students, faculty and staff at the University of Houston.
Harris decided to become an astronaut when he was 13 years old after watching the first lunar landing, Apollo 11, with Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
“Becoming an astronaut was a heart decision because it’s that heart that helps you overcome obstacles to achieve,” Harris said.
He witnessed the civil rights movement from a young age and knew that as an African-American there would be challenges to fulfill his dream, but his drive to succeed never stopped.
“It doesn’t matter how you start life or the adversities and challenges that come along, but how you use them as stepping stones,” Harris said.
Harris shared unique experiences during his career as an astronaut, such as the impact he had after seeing Earth from space. “It makes you color blind. You don’t see race, sex, ethnicities differences from space,” he said. “It was in that moment I began to call myself an earthling because from up there we are all the same.”
NASA had many contributions from Harris in regards to his creativity and knowledge. He took part in research for exercise equipment and prevention of bone loss for astronauts. In return, NASA gave him the opportunity to share his story with communities across the nation.
Harris is now involved with organizations such as the Harris Foundation, Exxon Mobile Summer Science Camp and the Dream Tour. His goal is to give students an opportunity to expand their education.
“When I see young people at my foundations, I see myself. I want to give them the strength to live out their dreams,” Harris said. “If you invest in young people, you are investing in the future of this country.”