In this revelatory and moving memoir, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success.
Leland Melvin is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the National Football League and in space. Though his path to the heavens was riddled with setbacks and injury, Leland persevered to reach the stars.
While training with NASA, Melvin suffered a severe injury that left him deaf. Leland was relegated to earthbound assignments, but chose to remain and support his astronaut family. His loyalty paid off. Recovering partial hearing, he earned his eligibility for space travel. He served as mission specialist for two flights aboard the shuttle Atlantis, working on the International Space Station.
In this uplifting memoir, the former NASA astronaut and professional athlete offers an examination of the intersecting role of community, determination, and grace that align to shape our opportunities and outcomes. Chasing Space is not the story of one man, but the story of many men, women, scientists, and mentors who helped him defy the odds and live out an uncommon destiny.
As a chemist, athlete, engineer and space traveler, Leland’s life story is a study in the science of achievement. His personal insights illuminate how grit and grace, are the keys to overcoming adversity and rising to success.
A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut. He served on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist and was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010. He also served as the cochair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. He is the host of the Lifetime show Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s BattleBots. He holds four honorary doctorates and has received the NFL Player Association Award of Excellence. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.
1 I Really Can't Hear 1
2 Vision, Grit, And Lynchburg 17
3 Second Chances 37
4 A Short Life in the NFL 57
5 NASA Langley 75
6 The World's Most Exclusive Club 95
7 Recovery And Tragedy 123
8 Training For Space 141
9 The Final Frontier 161
10 Educator 187
11 The Next Mission 219
★ 05/08/2017Publishers Weekly
In this wide-ranging memoir, Melvin, a retired astronaut, football player, engineer, and educator, shares anecdotes of the many challenges he has faced as well as his multitude of accomplishments and the role models who inspired him. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but hamstring injuries ended his hopes for a career in the NFL before it even took off. Fortunately, Melvin was recruited to work as an optical engineer at NASA’s Langley research center in Virginia. He writes with bemusement about the publicity he dealt with after earning a coveted slot in the astronaut corps. For someone of such remarkable achievement, Melvin demonstrates impressive humility and depth of character as he discusses overcoming myriad setbacks, such as the training accident that left him deaf in one ear and nearly grounded him for good. His missions aboard the space shuttle ended after the cancellation of the shuttle program, sending Melvin to break new ground in NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program and as cochair of the White House Committee on STEM Education. Melvin writes honestly about his mistakes as well as his triumphs, urging readers to pursue their dreams with determination and hard work. Agent: Dave Larabell, Creative Artists. (May)
“Leland’s story moves fast from the deck of his home-built skateboard to the flight deck of the space shuttle. He shows us how he made the best of every opportunity and every setback on his way from his hometown to outer space. It moves fast; once you get started you’ll want to join the chase.”Bill Nye
“Henry Ford said, If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Leland Melvin proves it. His story inspires me and reminds me of the value of staying positive and pushing through adversity. Chasing Space is uplifting and motivating.”Simon Sinek
“Leland has helped me connect to the Universe I searched for so long since being a kid. From being obsessed with the TV series In Search Of to discovering Carl Sagan’s world, space always fascinated me. Meeting Leland allowed me to connect even deeper into the cosmos on so many levels. In 2009 Leland took one of my BBC tees to space as well as a piece of music we worked on together, which as you can imagine meant a lot to me. He also introduced me to Katherine Johnson and has worked closely with my mother on my charity to help further educate kids from my hometown. I’m happy to be able to call Leland a friend and looking forward to many more years of learning with him. And now he will take you, too, on a journey.”Pharrell Williams
“As a Black woman researcher at NASA in the 1950s, I found Chasing Space very revealing. While I performed the calculations that assisted men on their missions to the moon, I always hoped that in my lifetime that I would see a Black man fly into space. Not only did this book make me feel as if I were on this journey with Leland, through his eyes, it reminded me of how small the planet really is, and therefore, how insignificant our differences as humans are—the kind of issues that kept my own legacy at NASA hidden for so long. Chasing Space is a must read—a flight you shouldn’t miss.”Katherine Johnson
“Nerd-kid almost burns down his house with a chemistry experiment gone bad, then grows up and plays for the National Football League, then flies to the International Space Station. That actually happened, and it is quite a story. In Chasing Space, Leland Melvin, the former NASA astronaut, shares this remarkable trajectory of his life. En route he tackles stupendous obstacles with dogged determination, showing you what is indeed possible in life—if you believe.”Neil deGrasse Tyson
“A story of passion and perseverance told by a humble hero. Insightful and inspiring!”Angela Duckworth
“Though Melvin refers to his story as one of grit and grace, he does so without a shred of ego… Second chances played a key role in Melvin’s ability to overcome obstacles and achieve his many dreams, and he’ll have readers wondering how many chances it would take them to do the same.”Booklist
When in training to be an astronaut, Melvin, a former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, suffered a terrible injury that left him deaf. Recovering partial hearing, he was able to serve as mission specialist for two Atlantis flights. With a 30,000-copy first printing.
08/01/2017School Library Journal
Featuring an eye-catching cover of Melvin in his spacesuit with his two dogs lovingly gazing at him, this memoir of an "unexpected astronaut" will appeal to a wide audience. It opens with a description of how ruptured eardrums nearly ended years of training before he even had the chance to go into space. Melvin persevered, just as his family taught him, and 10 years later became a crew member on the space shuttle Atlantis and worked aboard the International Space Station. His experiences in space will intrigue readers, as will the details of his pre-NASA life. As a young man, Melvin had received a scholarship to play NCAA football while majoring in science at the University of Richmond. He briefly played for the NFL but was sidelined because of an injury. The author makes his seemingly larger-than-life experiences relatable to readers, emphasizing how his hard work and confidence were crucial to his success. Young athletes will especially appreciate the discussion of how a sports team can act as an extended family, and Melvin's account of the difficulties he encountered as an African American man in an often predominantly white setting will resonate with teens. VERDICT A heartfelt offering for fans of inspiring memoirs, sports lovers, or those interested in the STEM fields.—Sherry J. Mills, Hazelwood East High School, St. Louis