Leland Melvin is a retired NASA astronaut, a materials science engineer, and a technical advisor to the defense and space industry. Twice, he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station.
Mr. Melvin has advised an array of international defense and space organizations and has been appointed to the board of directors for BWX Technologies, a leading supplier of nuclear components and fuel to the U.S. government. In 2017, Mr. Melvin was named a director’s fellow by the MIT Media Lab, one of the world’s leading research and academic organizations, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mr. Melvin joined NASA in 1989 as an aerospace research engineer in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center. His responsibilities included utilizing optical fiber sensors to measure strain, temperature, and chemical damage 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. He is credited with co-designing an optical nondestructive evaluation facility that produced fiber optic sensors.
Selected as an astronaut in June 1998, Mr. Melvin flew two missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, serving as a mission specialist on STS-122 in 2008, and as mission specialist one on STS-129 in 2009. Both missions went to the International Space Station. Mission highlights include the delivery and installation of the European Space Agency’s Columbus Laboratory and delivery of critical Express Logistics Carriers to the station, 30,000 pounds of essential replacement parts. Throughout his career as an astronaut, Mr. Melvin has logged more than 565 hours in space.
In 2010, Mr. Melvin took the helm of NASA’s office of education, managing the agency’s vast portfolio of programs and co-chaired the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education, while also chairing the International Space Education Board.
A lifelong athlete, Mr. Melvin is an NCAA All American Athlete, a title he earned playing football for the University of Richmond. In 1986, the Detroit Lions selected him as a wide receiver in the NFL Draft. Leland Melvin is the only NFL player to have traveled to space.
Mr. Melvin continues to share his passion for athletics, science, the arts, and animals through frequent appearances and starring in television series on National Geographic, Discovery, and Lifetime networks. He delivered a highly successful TED talk in 2019 and authored Chasing Space, An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances. A sought-after public speaker, Mr. Melvin shares his knowledge of space exploration and science with educators, students, and the public internationally.
Mr. Melvin has been awarded five honorary doctorates for his work in education, science, and philanthropy. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Richmond and a Masters of Science in Material Science Engineering from the University of Virginia.