Based on my reading of Spaceman by Mike Massimino, Leland Melvin’s Chasing Space popped up on my recommendations; needless to say picking up a book whose front cover was an attractive man wearing an astronaut suit being adored by two dogs was a no brainer.
Leland Melvin has been part of two impossibly small clubs; he was drafted into the NFL (about a 2% chance for NCAA players) and then became an astronaut who was sent to space (less than 1% chance) twice. Both of these stories would be pretty extraordinary but together they make for an uplifting story about pursuing your dreams while trusting God’s plan for you. Melvin was always a gifted athlete who went to the University of Virginia on a football scholarship but was also an intelligent, hard working student pursuing a chemistry degree. After his senior year of college he was drafted by the Detroit Lions but, following a hamstring injury, he was cut from the team. The Lions’ loss was the Dallas Cowboys’ gain when America’s team picked up the wide receiver shortly after his dismissal. While waiting for the training camp to start, at the urging of a friend, Leland began his Master’s degree in engineering and, after aggravating his old injury, when he was cut from the Cowboys he shifted his focus exclusively on science. While attending a career fair as a master’s student he met a NASA recruiter and the rest is history.
“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. My orbital shift happened after breaking bread with my space station crewmates and my shuttle crewmates. It showed me how close we are as countries, as races, as a species. I marveled that on Earth we have all these distances and separations and geographic boundaries, but they vanish quickly in the weightless interior of the space station
While Melvin had a few setbacks, namely a scare involving his hearing, he did eventually go to space twice before retiring. Afterwards he became an educator and public speaker as well as a game show host, he’s even on my nephews’ favorite show, Battle Bots.
The structure is a bit off, beginning with his NASA related injury before backing up into his childhood, but this is a pretty well written story for a man whose interests lay primarily in STEM instead of English or the social sciences. I do wish he’d spent as much time on his space adventures as he did on his college football shenanigans but overall it was a quick, entertaining read about an interesting man.