Retired NASA astronaut Leland D. Melvin had a training day accident while spacewalking in a 300-pound suit.
Although Melvin was told he might never fly in space, he did not allow hearing loss to get in the way. He went on to serve onboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist in 2008 and as a mission specialist in 2009.
The only person drafted into the National Football League to have ever flown in space, Melvin grew up wanting to be a tennis player like Arthur Ashe, the first black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
A Lynchburg, Virginia native, Melvin would later attend the University of Richmond on a football scholarship. He served as wide receiver and was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but an injured hamstring cut short his football career.
At graduate school, Melvin worked with trailblazing NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson and astronaut Charlie Bolden, who went on to become the first black NASA administrator.
Melvin was selected as an astronaut in 1998. Since hanging up his space boots, he has served as head of education at NASA, co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Task Force, and the United States representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, a global collaboration on learning about space.
At a special ceremony held February, Melvin joined experts from Dassault Systèmes, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, and Base 11 to present a $1.6 million check for aerospace workforce development. The grant will fund a rocketry lab and launch a student rocketry team at Maryland’s leading public urban research university.
“I am excited to see this generation of students getting critical hands-on experience in rocket technology, and I encourage Morgan State’s students to seize this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars,” said Melvin.
The grant will fund the build-out of a liquid-fuel rocketry lab at Morgan State, as well as the recruitment and hiring of an aerospace faculty leader to create a world-class liquid fuel rocketry program. Morgan State aims to bring together these elements to successfully build and launch a liquid fuel rocket that reaches 150,000 feet by 2022.
On July 19, Melvin will co-host “Out of This World — A Celebration on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing,”
with the San Francisco Symphony in works reflecting humankind’s fascination with space. Musical selections include Debussy’s Clair de lune; Michael Giacchino’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness”; and John Williams’ “Main Title” from Star Wars.
Melvin uses his experience as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer, and musician to help inspire the next generation of space explorers.