Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin aims to help the next generation reach for the stars


Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin is striving to help the next generation reach the same heights as him.

Melvin, a retired NASA astronaut, completed two space shuttle missions on the International Space Station during his tenure, one in 2008 and the other in 2009. But since then, Melvin has worked hard to follow in his parents’ footsteps.

Looking at the example set by his parents, who were both educators, Melvin told Space.com he has connected with young people around the world through a series of free online courses he teaches. with the Varsity Tutors platform.

“I think the most rewarding thing I’ve got flying in space is, you know, coming back and empowering others to believe that they can do it too,” Melvin said.

Melvin’s next class of university tutors, titled “Your Astronaut Questions, Answered”, will take place on December 27th.

Related: How Leland Melvin went from the NFL to space (exclusive video)

“I’m just trying to honor her legacy because she was a schoolteacher,” Melvin said of his late mother. “I think, you know, of the kids who were trying to inspire little girls… My mom is watching now; she’s proud. She’s happy that I’m trying to carry on her legacy.”

Melvin shared that he’s returned to his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., And “people are looking for me in my hometown to tell me, not that, ‘Hey, you’re a great astronaut’ … they tell me that ‘Your father taught me’ or ‘Your mother taught me.’ ”

He also told the story of returning from one of his space flights and attending a parade in Houston. Melvin shared that he was in a fire engine with former astronaut Robert Kirby on the parade, and “he pats me on the shoulder and points to these two little boys, two little African American boys with their dad. , and they both got on… orange pumpkin costumes. ”And their dad points a finger and slaps them and says,“ Look right there, ”Melvin said.

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin reads “The Moon Over Star” to first and third graders at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in Washington, DC, while he was an associate administrator of the NASA for Education in 2011. Melvin retired from NASA in 2014. (Image credit: Carla Cioff / NASA)

“It was almost like the father had injected rocket fuel into their little bodies, because they were just starting to spin, they saw someone who looked like them. They had their flight suits, we had our suits. flight. And that was instantly one of those times when we crossed our eyes and made the mission possible for these kids, “he said.

Melvin shared other examples of times he saw the power of inspiration with his own eyes. He also revealed how impactful it was to be able to share these stories of space and science with under-represented communities and children.

For example, he spoke of a school group he was able to share a song bounced from Mars with.

“These kids,” said Melvin, “are black and brown children who have historically been underserved, underrepresented, without access to opportunities, and often without belief in themselves… We were able to instill that belief in them. moment. ”

“Breaking down all of these things that can help them see the path is so important. So important,” Melvin said. “We want children to dream. And in those dreams, they will solve problems to save our planet, help our climate, bring us together.”

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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