Leland D. Melvin

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Leland D. Melvin
Melvin in 2009
Leland Devon Melvin

(1964-02-15) February 15, 1964 (age 60)
EducationUniversity of Richmond (BS)
University of Virginia (MS)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
23d 13h 28m[1]
SelectionNASA Group 17 (1998)
Mission insignia
College football career
Richmond Spiders – No. 4
PositionWide receiver
Career history
High schoolHeritage (Lynchburg, VA)
Career highlights and awards
WebsiteOfficial website

Leland Devon Melvin (born February 15, 1964) is an American engineer and a retired NASA astronaut. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. Melvin was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010.


Born on February 15, 1964, in Lynchburg,[2] Melvin attended Heritage High School and then went on to the University of Richmond[3] on a football scholarship, where he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry. In 1989, he received a Master of Science degree in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia.[4]

His parents, Deems and Grace, reside in Lynchburg, Virginia.[4] Melvin's recreational interests include photography, piano, reading, music, cycling, tennis, and snowboarding.[5]

Melvin appeared as an elimination challenge guest judge in the 12th episode of Top Chef (season 7);[6] with his dogs in the seventh season of The Dog Whisperer[7] and the second season of the Netflix series Dogs;[8] and was the host of Child Genius (season 1 and 2).[9]

Football career[edit]

Melvin was a wide receiver on the University of Richmond football team from 1982 to 1985. Melvin is first on the University of Richmond's career lists with 198 receptions for 2,669 yards,[10] and fourth on Richmond's career touchdown receptions list with 16. He was an AP honorable mention All-America selection in 1984 and 1985 and second-team Apple Academic All-America in 1985.[11]

A team captain during his senior season, Melvin had his best year in 1985, with 65 catches for 956 yards and eight touchdowns. His top game was in 1984 against James Madison University, when he had 10 catches for 208 yards and one touchdown.[11]

Melvin caught at least one pass in every game he played as a Richmond Spider (39).[11]

He was in the University of Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee Class of 1996–97 and selected for the All-UR Stadium Team in 2009, which commemorates the greatest Spiders to have played at the stadium in its 81-year history.[12]

Melvin was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL Draft as a wide receiver.[13] During training camp, he pulled a hamstring and was released from the team in late August.[14][15] In October, he was added to the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts' practice roster.[16]

He reported to the Dallas Cowboys the following spring but pulled a hamstring a second time, officially ending his professional football career.[14][17]

NASA Career[edit]

Melvin began working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA's Langley Research Center in 1989. His responsibilities included using optical fiber sensors to measure damage and deformation in composite and metallic structures. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.[2]

Melvin was selected as an astronaut in June 1998. He was assigned to the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch, and the Education Department at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. As co-manager of NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, Melvin traveled across the United States, discussing space exploration with teachers and students, and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He next served in the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office. In October 2010, Melvin was appointed associate administrator for the Office of Education. In this role, Melvin was responsible for the development and implementation of NASA's education programs to inspire interest in science and technology, and raise public awareness about NASA goals and missions. He retired from NASA in February 2014.[2]

Melvin flew two missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122 and STS-129.[18]

STS-122 (February 7 to 20, 2008) was the 24th shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Mission highlight was the delivery and installation of the European Space Agency's Columbus (ISS module). It took three spacewalks by crew members to prepare the Columbus Laboratory for its scientific work, and to replace an expended nitrogen tank on the Station's P-1 Truss. STS-122 was also a crew replacement mission, delivering Expedition-16 flight engineer, ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts, and returning home with Expedition-16 flight engineer, NASA astronaut Daniel Tani. The STS-122 mission lasted 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5,296,832 statute miles in 203 Earth orbits.

STS-129 (November 16 to 29, 2009) was the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station. During the mission, the crew delivered two ExPRESS Logistics Carriers (ELC racks) to the International Space Station, about 30,000 pounds of replacement parts for systems that provide power to the station to keep it from overheating, and maintain proper orientation in space. The mission also featured three spacewalks. The STS-129 mission lasted 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits. STS-129 returned to Earth with them NASA Astronaut, Nicole Stott, following her tour of duty aboard the space station.

In all, Melvin logged over 565 hours in space.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Melvin with his two dogs

Since retiring from NASA, Leland has given several STEM lectures of his experience in space to a wide range of audiences, as well as his football career in the NFL. During his NASA career, while he was doing an underwater training, he sustained and partially recovered from a serious ear injury where his doctors stated the possibility of him being deaf, a malady which affects his left ear.[19] Melvin has published two books; Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances and Chasing Space: Young Reader's Edition.[20]

In his spare time he enjoys playing the piano, cooking, walking his two dogs Jake and Scout,[21] and is featured in several National Geographic Space documentaries and videos.[22]


See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ "Astronauts and Cosmonauts (sorted by "Time in Space")". Space Facts. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d "NASA Astronaut Bio: LELAND D. MELVIN, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR EDUCATION, NASA HEADQUARTERS (FORMER)" (PDF). NASA. March 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  3. ^ "University of Richmond News". news.richmond.edu. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Leland Melvin". The History Makers. 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  5. ^ "Leland Melvin". www.esa.int. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  6. ^ Amiko Kauderer (September 3, 2010). "NASA Presents Challenge to Top Chef Contestants". NASA. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  7. ^ "Dog Whisperer- Astronaut Dogs & Mongo". National Geographic. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  8. ^ "Retired Astronaut Leland Melvin & His Rhodesian Ridgebacks". The American Kennel Club. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  9. ^ "About Child Genius: Battle of the Brightest". myLifetime.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  10. ^ "University of Richmond Athletic Hall Of Fame". CBS Sports. University of Richmond. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c "Leland Melvin (1997) - Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame". University of Richmond Athletics. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  12. ^ "Richmond Announces All-UR Stadium Team". CBS Sports. University of Richmond. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  13. ^ "1986 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Birkett, Dave (June 10, 2017). "'Chasing Space': Leland Melvin went from Detroit Lions WR to astronaut". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  15. ^ "Transactions". Calgary Herald. August 27, 1986. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Transactions". Calgary Herald. October 11, 1986. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ Hollington, Suzanne (July 21, 1987). "Landry concentrates on defense as Cowboys open training camp". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ "Leland Melvin's Blog – Just another NASA Blogs Sites site". blogs.nasa.gov. October 26, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  19. ^ Howell 2018-02-26T20:16:05Z, Elizabeth (February 26, 2018). "How Astronaut Leland Melvin Went from the NFL to Space (Exclusive Video)". Space.com. Retrieved December 29, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "Leland Melvin". www.lelandmelvin.com. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  21. ^ Nguyen, Amanda. "How To Change The World With Astronaut Leland Melvin". Forbes. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  22. ^ "NFL Player Turned Astronaut Leland Melvin Shares His 'Love Affair' with Earth in Nat Geo Doc". Peoplemag. Retrieved February 28, 2024.

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