Former NFL athlete • Two-time NASA space shuttle astronaut • Has logged over 565 hours in space • Holds a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Masters in Materials Science • Served as NASA Associate Administrator of Education
Among Leland’s many contributions to society, we can count his amazing official NASA portrait (it co-stars his two rescue dogs and went viral) and the fact he’s the only human to have caught a pass in the National Football League and also in space.
After a promising NFL career was cut short by a hamstring injury, Leland earned a MS in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia and then engineered his way to a career as a NASA astronaut. In training, yet another physical injury left him deaf and threatened his pathway to the stars. Leland persevered, recovered partial hearing and qualified for space travel.
He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129 – logging over 565 hours in space. A strong proponent of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) movement, Leland was named the NASA Associate Administrator of Education in October 2010. Now retired from NASA, he continues to support education and share his story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to inspire and empower the future.
“When you look at the Earth from the vantage point of space, our planet looks like a little blue marble. Seeing our world from that vantage point cognitively changes you.”
– Leland Melvin