A flawless final Atlantis mission marked the end of NASA's space shuttle program. Now a new era begins and one former astronaut wants to ensure the future of space travel by educating middle school students.
Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., a Texas Tech graduate, was the first African-American to walk in space. He is using his experience to encourage young people to study math, science and engineering.
"I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to blast off on two vehicles and traveling 17,500 miles an hour getting a chance to go around the world every 90 minutes seeing the sunset and sunrise," said Harris.
Harris says for 30 years the United States has been the forefront for space flight, now it has come to an end and he wants to change that.
"It's important to have camps like this because we want to prepare young people for our future where technology is king," said Harris.
Related link: www.theharrisfoundation.org
For the sixth consecutive year, Harris and Exxon Mobil have partnered to bring 25 universities a two week all-expenses paid Summer Science Camp for underrepresented students across the country.
"It was awesome because he works for NASA and I want to be a NASA scientist when I grow up and I really want to study where he went," said Jarys Boyd, a student at the camp.
Currently, 48 area students are engaged in their camp at Texas Tech University. They are experiencing hands-on learning exercises, field excursions, team-based competitions and challenging activities.
Thursday, students used Harris's background for their activity. Their goal was to create a space suit design which could withstand a meteorite.
"I didn't know the space suit had 14 layers, I thought it had one layer," said Boyd.
Harris hopes his vision will stimulate the minds of these kids to reach beyond the stars.
"Our kids need to be prepared for the future, not only for their livelihood but for the competitiveness of this country," said Harris.
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