Former astronaut Leland Melvin, and the only person drafted into the NFL to have flown in space, is part of the elite group of eight astronauts who tell the extraordinary story of Earth in National Geographic’s ONE STRANGE ROCK, executive produced by Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures and Jane Root’s Nutopia. Having viewed our planet from a vantage point few humans ever see, Melvin shares his personal experiences in space to reveal the complexities of our vulnerable tiny speck of a planet.
Before becoming an astronaut, Melvin was drafted into the NFL by the Detroit Lions. His career with NASA began in 1989, when he worked in the area of nondestructive testing, creating optical fibre sensors for measuring damage in aerospace vehicles. Melvin has flown two missions on the space shuttle Atlantis in 2008 and 2009 and has logged more than 565 hours in space.
After hanging up his space boots, Melvin was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) Education Task Force and developed the nation’s five-year S.T.E.M. education plan. He was the US representative and chair of the International Space Education Board (ISEB), a global collaboration on learning about space. Today, he uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) careers.
Leland holds five honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences and philanthropy. He was chosen as an ICON MANN with Quincy Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Steve Harvey and 24 other men selected for their ability to inspire people of all ages through their vision and commitment to creating positive change throughout the world. Leland has been honoured with the NFL Players Association “Award of Excellence” for inspiring athletes to pursue excellence on and off the field.
Melvin is author of Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances, a memoir that offers an examination of the intersecting role of community, determination and grace that aligns to shape our opportunities and outcomes. He also has written a chapter on the power of visualisation in Venus Williams’ book Come to Win. Melvin’s research findings have been published in numerous scientific journals. In addition, he has appeared on Top Chef as a celebrity judge, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman and an episode of Nat Geo Wild’s The Dog Whisperer, where Cesar Millan helped him with his unruly pooch, Jake.
He currently resides in Lynchburg, Virginia and enjoys photography, piano, reading, music, cycling, tennis and snowboarding in his free time.