Former NASA Astronaut, 1st African American to walk in Space
Dr. Harris worked at NASA for ten years, where he conducted research in musculoskeletal physiology and disuse osteoporosis. Later, as Head of the Exercise Countermeasure Project, he conducted clinical investigations of space adaptation and developed in-flight medical devices to extend Astronaut stays in space. Selected into the Astronaut Corp in January 1990, Dr. Harris was a Mission Specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-55/Spacelab D-2 in 1993. As Payload Commander on Space Shuttle Discovery STS-63 in 1995, he served on the first flight of the joint Russian-American Space Program, becoming the “First African American to walk in Space.” A veteran astronaut for over nineteen years, he has logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space.
He served as Vice President and Chief Scientist of SPACEHAB, Inc., an 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.
Currently he is on the Board for the National Math and Science Initiative, Houston Angel Network, Medical Informatics, Technology and Applications Center, Houston Technology Center and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Board of Scientific Counselors. In addition, he was a Senior Consultant for NASA Aerospace Safety Panel, as well as a member of the NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Committee, the Council for the National Institute Health/National Institute for Deafness, Texas Tech’s University Board of Regents, Texas Higher Education Coalition, Texas Commission on a Representative Student Body and Communications Disorders and the committee for the National Academies Institute of Medicine.
Dr. Harris is currently Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital firm, that invests in early to mid stage Healthcare technologies and companies. He is also the Founder of the Harris Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports math/science education and crime prevention programs for America’s youth.
He is the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from Stony Brook University (SUNY), Morehouse School of Medicine, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the University of Hartford, as well as the NASA Space Flight Medal, a NASA Award of Merit, a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and the 2000 Horatio Alger Award.
Dr. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Biology from the University of Houston, a Master of Medical Science (MMS) from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Houston Clear Lake and a Doctorate of Medicine (MD) from Texas Tech University School of Medicine. He completed a Residency in Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a National Research Council Fellowship in Endocrinology at the NASA Ames Research Center and trained as a Flight Surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He is also a licensed private pilot and certified scuba diver.
He holds several faculty appointments including Associate Professor in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Additionally, he is the author and co-author of numerous scientific publications.
Dr. Harris’ goals in life have been achieved through self-empowerment and self-determination. He believes that education and effort will allow anyone to meet any challenge in life, inspiring others to reach for the stars.