Hattiesburg native Richard Burger graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1965. In this episode, he recalls returning to Mississippi to work at NASA’s test facility (later renamed the Stennis Space Center) as a computer programmer. Because he was working for General Electric under government contract, Burger’s story was rather unusual for that time, as opportunities for African-American in Mississippi were typically limited to menial or low-level positions.
As a programmer, Burger worked with NASA engineers testing Saturn rockets. He remembers his first assignment working with a “unique” engineer named Charlie Parker to develop a fuel delivery system to speed the test-firing process.
Throughout his career, Richard Burger used a wide variety of computers and programming languages. He compares the NASA main frames of the 1960s to today’s more powerful laptops.
PODCAST BONUS: After working in the private sector for over twenty years, Burger returned to NASA in the 1990s with a new mission: taking at-risk African-American youth from inner-city high schools in Los Angeles, on a six week tour of NASA laboratories and Black Colleges. It was a program dubbed “Earth to L.A.”