Astronaut Leland Melvin

Leland Melvin is an engineer, educator, and former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist, helping to construct the International Space Station. Before becoming an astronaut, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986; he is the only NFL player 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, OH.

Mr. Melvin has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering. He worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the area of non-destructive testing and has been published in numerous scientific journals. As the co-chair of the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, he developed the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Also the US representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, Mr. Melvin uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer, and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue STEM careers.

He has also served as NASA’s associate administrator for education. Mr. Melvin was host of the Lifetime competition series Child Genius, a judge for ABC’s BattleBots, and he has appeared on National Geographic’s One Strange Rock, Top Chef, Bizarre Foods, The Dog Whisperer, and was a consultant for the second season of National Geographic’s Mars. He was featured in a Syfy program documenting the making of the will.i.am song “Reach for the Stars,” which was transmitted to Mars and back to inspire students to pursue STEM. Mr. Melvin recently released his memoir, Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.

Mr. Melvin holds four honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences, and philanthropy. He was chosen as an ICON MANN for his ability to inspire people of all ages through his vision and commitment to creating positive change throughout the world. He has been honored with the NFL Players Association’s Award of Excellence for inspiring athletes to pursue excellence on and off the field. This performance marks his first appearance with the San Francisco Symphony.

(July 2019)