Excited About NASA'S Future

A new name emerges as the frontrunner to be the new NASA Administrator. What does the future hold for the space agency with the new president? That question was posed to a University of Houston Alumnus and the first African-American to walk in space. Pat Hernandez has the story.

According to administration insiders, the list of candidates to be Barack Obama's new NASA chief is now at four. We've heard about three: retired Air Force Generals Lester Lyles and Scott Gration, and former NASA astronaut and retired Marine Corps general Charles Bolden. Add Steve Isakowitz to that list. He's the CFO of the Department of Energy and a former top NASA official. The nominee, when selected, will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The president's desire to keep NASA a top priority is good news to former astronaut Bernard Harris. I had a chance to chat with the UH grad, who is the first African American to walk in space.

Hernandez :  "Is there anybody in particular that you would like to be the next NASA Administrator?"

Harris:  "Well, I don't know if I want to select any particular person, but I can tell you the characteristic of that person should be one who is familiar with the space program, and I guess the only prejudice I might have is that it would be nice if that person had flown in space that way they would have first hand views and first hand experience about what it's like to travel there, because I think our future is in exploring our solar system and our galaxy. When we do that we expand our knowledge,  we expand technology. I want to make sure that the next administrator has that mindset and that will set the stage for us doing what I had dreamed of as a kid — and that is orbital platforms and going to the moon and perhaps Mars."

When it comes to finding space travelers of tomorrow, he thinks President Obama is on target with math and science as two subjects students must excel in.

"I am looking forward to the impact that's going to have on our young people and, I'm hoping in that process that will continue to grow the space agency too."

He came back to town to announce expansion of His Summer Science Camps at UH and 29 universities across the country.

image of Pat Hernandez interviewing former astronaut Bernard Harris at the KUHF studio

"This camp is targeted toward middle school, rising sixth, seventh and eighth graders, trying to keep them engaged, keep them turned on about math and science. Letting them know that it's okay to be a geek; it's okay to be an engineer; it's okay to be a doctor; it's okay to be an astronaut." 

More information about the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps can be found at www.theharrisfoundation.org.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...