Bernard Harris said it was primarily the ability to learn that made him an astronaut. “We should be passionate about what we do. I would rather die doing what I like than living in fear,” he said.

Life on earth remains rooted in reality for Bernard A. Harris Junior who has completed an odyssey of over 7.2 million miles in 438 hours in space. Having seen the universe from a different angle, he believes that there is a higher being above all. “There has to be some higher power,” he told The Hindu in an interview.

At 250 miles from the Earth, the Earth’s curvature is visible. Up in the space, it is an incredible view of the galaxy, black with stars, depending on the time. An aura around the Earth, sunrise and sunset within 45 minutes, rapid rise in temperature from minus 10 to 60 degrees centigrade within minutes were among some of the experiences he had during his mission. “You can see day and night at the two portions of Earth at the same time.”

As a mission specialist on the NASA space shuttle Columbia in 1993 and as payload commander on space shuttle Discovery in 1995, Mr. Bernard had gone through moments of ecstasy as a space scientist.

But it was no easy journey for him, having had picked up the threads of life from a broken home.

His parents divorced when he was a child. Mr. Bernard gracefully gave the credit of his achievement to his mother, who took all the care to nurture his talent. “Everyone is born with abilities. We should figure out and focus on the abilities,” he said.

On the talents that made him an astronaut, he said it was primarily the ability to learn. “We should be passionate about what we do,” he said. “I would rather die doing what I like than living in fear,” he said, commenting on the ability to take risk in life.

In fact, it was this risk-taking capacity that took him to venture capital funding. Mr. Bernard is the Chief Executive Officer and marketing partner of Versalius Ventures Inc, a venture capital firm that invest in early to mid-stage healthcare technologies and companies.

Earlier, he had worked with Vanguard Ventures, a $500 million venture capital firm.

Mr. Bernard developed in-flight medical devices to extend astronauts' stay in space after having conducted research into musculoskeletal physiology and space adaptation. Yet, he makes an assessment of it thus: “We don’t discover anything new. It is all there in the universe.”

As a successful entrepreneur, he has a clear idea about the qualities required for those who venture into startups. The entrepreneurs should be able to see things different from others; find opportunities and take risk. “A leader is intuitive, but it comes from experience,” he said.

As a venture fund organiser, he interviews prospective startup proposers with a view to understanding the latter’s vision and perspectives. But that is no foolproof method to ensure success.

“Still there are ventures that fail,” he said. But that should not deter the real entrepreneur. “There is an opportunity out there to change the world. Don’t be afraid to take risks. The rewards are great (when you succeed),” he said.


Students get a glimpse into life of an astronautDecember 14, 2013

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