Engineer, Former NASA Astronaut & Former NFL Wide Receiver
Leland Melvin is an engineer, educator, former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on mission STS-122 (2008) and STS-129 (2009), helping to construct the International Space Station. Leland served co-chair of the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force and as…
Leland Melvin is an engineer, educator, former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on mission STS-122 (2008) and STS-129 (2009), helping to construct the International Space Station.
Leland served co-chair of the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force and as NASA Associate Administrator for Education.
“Houston, we have a problem.” Leland Melvin was 25 feet under water in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 6 million gallon pool, training to perform spacewalks as a NASA astronaut when he called the test director and asked him to turn the volume up in his headset. He never heard a reply and was immediately hoisted out of the pool to learn that he was deaf. Emergency surgery resulting in only partial recovery to his hearing led him to being medically disqualified to fly in space by NASA flight surgeons.
This is just one of the many career ending challenges Leland has overcome in his life. Before becoming an astronaut Leland was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 1986 College Draft to play professional football but a hamstring injury thwarted his NFL career with Detroit and then later with the Dallas Cowboys. Through determination and perseverance Leland ultimately traveled off-planet twice on Space Shuttle Atlantis to help construct the International Space Station, logging a over 565 hours in space. Leland is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space. The Pro Football Hall of Fame honored his athletic and academic accomplishments by placing his Detroit Lions jersey under glass in Canton, Ohio. Through these professional experiences working on high stakes teams he developed a deep and nuanced understanding of effective team dynamics.
Leland has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering. He worked at NASA Langley Research Center in the area of nondestructive testing creating optical fiber sensors for measuring damage in aerospace vehicles resulting in publications in numerous scientific journals. After hanging up his space boots he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force developing the nation’s 5-year STEM education plan. Leland was the United States representative and chair of the International Space Education Board (ISEB), a global collaboration in space. He uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer, and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) careers. Leland was also recently seen as the host of the Lifetime competition series “Child Genius” and as a judge for ABC’s robot competition series “BattleBots.” He was featured on National Geographic’s “One Strange Rock”, hosted by Will Smith, where he explained how his brain repaired itself after an injury that left him deaf and almost stopped him from ever going to space. Leland was also a consultant for the second season of National Geographic’s “Mars.”
Leland holds four honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences, and philanthropy. He was chosen as an ICON MANN with Quincy Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Steve Harvey and 24 other men selected for their ability to inspire people of all ages through their vision and commitment to creating positive change throughout the world. Leland has been honored with the NFL Players Association “Award of Excellence” for inspiring athletes to pursue excellence on and off the field.
He has written a chapter on the power of visualization in Venus Williams’ book “Come to Win.” Leland has appeared on “Top Chef” as a celebrity judge and “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman,” while Cesar Milan helped him with his unruly pooch Jake on an episode of “The Dog Whisperer.” He was featured in a Sci Fi Channel program documenting the making of the “Reach for the Stars” will.i.am song, which was transmitted to Mars and back to inspire students to pursue STEAM. After 24 years with NASA as a researcher, astronaut, and Senior Executive Service leader, Leland looks to share his stories of perseverance and excellence to inspire communities for lasting positive change.
In 2017, Leland released his memoir, “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.” In “Chasing Space,” Leland shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, and examines the intersecting roles of community, perseverance, and grace that align to create opportunities for success.
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances
Leland looks back on his uncommon life — he is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the NFL and walk in space. Leland will examine his life through the prism of success and achievement. How did he succeed where he rightly should have failed? What motivated him to overcome injuries, setbacks, expulsions, and debilitating deafness? Leland will not only recount his path with honesty and curiosity, he will also mine the latest thinking by researchers, authors, and academics, applying their work to his own life – and by extension giving the audience applicable takeaways.
Chasing Space: Science and Life Lessons with Astronaut Leland Melvin - Lesson 1
An astronaut's story of curiosity, perspective and change | Leland Melvin
1 HOUR OR LESS