EAST ORANGE, NJ – This week, East Orange STEM students launched into space, through the eyes of Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. that is.

Dr. Harris, Jr. is a former NASA astronaut. On February 9, 1995, during the second of his two space shuttle flights, Harris became the first African American to perform a spacewalk. This year marks his 25th anniversary of becoming the first.

Through a virtual presentation, Dr. Harris, Jr. was interviewed by East Orange STEM Academy students, seniors Sage McPhatter-Davis and Brad Yac-Diaz at the STEM in-house TV Studio. The video can be watched on the STEM Academy Facebook page.

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Dr. Harris shared his path that led him to a career in STEM as an astronaut and a medical doctor. Dr. Harris left NASA in 1996 and is the current CEO of The National Math and Science Initiative.

Students at STEM had the chance to ask questions and interact with Dr. Harris whose interest in space peaked after watching the Apollo 11 mission on TV in 1969.

Dr. Harris was selected by NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut in July 1991.

On his first launch, Dr. Harris, was the crew representative for Shuttle Software in the Astronaut Office Operations Development Branch. He flew on board Columbia, and conducted a variety of research in physical and life sciences. On this flight into space, Harris logged over 239 hours and 4,164,183 miles in space.

It was the second mission in 1995 that really put Dr. Harris in the history books. The mission was a joint international partnership between Russian and the United States. During the flight, Harris became the first African-American to walk in space. On this mission, Harris logged 198 hours, 29 minutes in space, completed 129 orbits, and traveled over 2.9 million miles.

Established in 2011, the East Orange STEM Academy offers a highly-focused, rigorous program in grades 6-12, for learners who have a strong desire to enter careers in STEM fields. Nationally ranked as a New Jersey Top 100 school by U.S. News and World Report, the school was also recognized by the College Board AP® for female diversity in Computer Science. Alumni of East Orange STEM Academy attend Ivy League universities and some of the best colleges in New Jersey and the country.

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