Leland Melvin floats aboard the International Space Station

Astronaut's resolve inspires students to aim high

Leland Melvin is inspiring young people to dream big through education. As someone who has been to both the NFL and space, he knows about achieving ambitious goals.

At Richmond, Melvin excelled in both science and football, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry the same spring he was drafted by the NFL’s Detroit Lions. When a series of preseason injuries ended his NFL career, he set his sights even higher — literally — becoming a NASA astronaut.

Melvin endured another sequence of delays and a career-threatening accident before finally traveling on space shuttle missions in 2008 and 2009 to work on the International Space Station. Now he uses those lessons and the fortitude within him to inspire young people to pursue STEAM education — studies of the sciences, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

My mission is to take the experiences that I had in space and bring that down to the classroom so the kids can say, ‘Wow, I can do that. And that guy looks kind of like me. Maybe I can be an astronaut.'

—Leland Melvin

He even wrote a book that chronicles his personal journey from Richmond to the NFL to NASA. A young readers’ edition — complete with science experiments — is all part of his effort to get more students excited about careers in science.


Leland Melvin is a former NASA astronaut and NFL draft pick. A member of the Spiders Athletic Hall of Fame, he has served as an advocate for STEAM education for NASA, the White House, and the International Space Education Board. He is author of Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.

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