Meet Leland Melvin: Author, Astronaut and NFL Player

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Provided by Prince William County

Former Astronaut Leland Melvin will be at Chinn Park Regional Library on Saturday, April 6, at 2 :00 p. m. to talk to people and sign books. Melvin is a former NFL player and the author of “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.” The book’s cover pictures Melvin sitting in his orange astronaut suit, with his dogs, Jake and Scout, both Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes, at his side.

Melvin’s Book

Melvin’s book is about his journey from his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., to the NFL, to outer space, and the adversities he overcame to get there. Hamstring injuries knocked him out of an NFL career with the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys; and then a training accident with NASA led to a hearing loss, which disqualified him from space flight. But Melvin didn’t give up. He stayed with NASA, and against all odds, his hearing returned, and he got his chance to go into space.

Traveling to the stars on the space shuttle Atlantis in 2008 and 2009 provided Melvin with a platform to promote education. “I had kind of a different journey into space, but I ended up there anyway, and it was one of the best things I could have done. It provides a great platform to help people get a different perspective, back on the planet, to learn about how we live and work together as one race — the human race,” said Melvin, who has been a lecturer and education advocate since retiring from NASA in 2014.

Melvin, a graduate of the University of Richmond, said his talk at the library will be about the value of sticking to it, something he’s learned throughout his life. “By not giving up and having that perseverance and having people that have your back when you don’t think anyone does, those are the things that help you overcome obstacles and rise.” 

What’s Next

As an advocate for education, Melvin encourages reading and has a second book “Chasing Space: Young Readers Edition” that is aimed at children. “Reading will allow any child to escape whatever environment they’re in and be able to be transported to a universe, to space, to other countries. It allows children the ability to learn and to grow and to aspire to do anything.”

Melvin also encourages children to look to the arts, as well as science, technology, engineering and math as they study. “Everyone is part of the journey, whether they’re an artist, a mathematician or technologist. We’re all in this together to help advance ourselves as a civilization,” said Melvin, who also holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Virginia. 

Rachel Johnson, the library system’s communication services division chief, said county libraries are always glad to welcome authors, but hosting Melvin tops the list. “It’s fantastic to have anyone come, but he is a pretty accomplished individual. He’s the only guy who has caught a football in the NFL and in outer space.” 

For more information about library programming, visit pwcgov.org/library.

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