Posted July 26, 2011

Astronaut tells summer campers to reach for the stars

Bernard Harris-Astronaut
  • Joseph V. Labolito / Temple University Former astronaut Bernard Harris works with students designing and creating a space suit using household items during the two-week ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by Temple’s College of Science and Technology.

Former astronaut Bernard Harris twice flew into space. But it wasn’t just the Space Shuttle that took him there — it was also education.

That’s the message he shared with 50 middle school students participating in the two-week ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by Temple’s College of Science and Technology.

Harris, the first African-American to walk in space, spent the morning of July 20 with the campers, trying to impart upon them the importance of math and science and how it helped him literally reach the stars.

“When I was 13 years old, I was fascinated with science and science fiction, and one of the things I saw in 1969 was Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon,” said Harris. “Some of us in my age — I am 55 years old — grew up watching this space program develop before our eyes. We were fascinated. All of us wanted to be an astronaut because it was very challenging and so unique for our time. It led me to do what I'm doing today.”

Harris told the students that they can never learn enough math and science.

“There is no limit to what you can learn,” he said. “Around here, we don't deal with limits. Around here, the sky is the limit. You always believe that. With a math and science education, you can create new things, you can innovate and you can invent new things that can help yourself and others.”

Harris also assisted the campers with the “Space Suit Challenge” in which they used household items such as copy paper, paper plate, wax paper, aluminum foil and masking tape to design and create a 14-layer space suit swatch that was capable of absorbing the impact of space debris.

Harris created the Bernard Harris Foundation in 1998 and has partnered with ExxonMobil to sponsor the summer science camps for the past six years. Activities include classroom study, experiments, individual and group projects, weekly field excursions and motivational guest speakers. This is the fourth year that Temple’s College of Science and Technology has hosted the camp.