Leland Devon Melvin (born February 15, 1964 in Lynchburg, Virginia) is an American engineer and a former NASA astronaut. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. Melvin was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010.
Melvin attended Heritage High School and then went on to the University of Richmond on a football scholarship, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. In 1991, he received a Master of Science degree in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia. His parents, Deems and Grace Melvin, reside in Lynchburg, Virginia. His recreational interests include photography, piano, reading, music, cycling, tennis, and snowboarding. Melvin appeared as an elimination challenge guest judge in the 12th episode of Top Chef (season 7),with his dogs in the seventh season of The Dog Whisperer., and was the host of Child Genius (season 1 and 2). He is the president of the Spaceship Earth Grants, a public benefit corporation whose mission is to make space more accessible through human spaceflight and parabolic flight awards to individual applicants.
Melvin began working in Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in 1989. His responsibilities included using optical fiber sensors to measure strain, temperature, and chemical damage in both composite and metallic structures. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the cooperative NASA/ Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.
Selected as an astronaut in June 1998, Melvin reported for training in August 1998. He has since been assigned to the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch, and the Education Department at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. As co-manager of NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program, Melvin has traveled across the country, discussing space exploration with teachers and students, and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He next served in the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office. In October 2010, Melvin was named as associate administrator for the Office of Education. As associate administrator, Melvin was responsible for the development and implementation of NASA’s education programs that inspire interest in science and technology and raise public awareness about NASA goals and missions. He retired from NASA in February 2014.
Melvin flew two missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis: as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. STS-122 (February 7 to February 20, 2008) was the 24th shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Mission highlight was the delivery and installation of the European Space Agency’s Columbus Laboratory. It took three spacewalks by crew members to prepare the Columbus Laboratory for its scientific work, and to replace an expended nitrogen tank on the Station’s P-1 Truss. STS-122 was also a crew replacement mission, delivering Expedition-16 Flight Engineer, ESA Astronaut Léopold Eyharts, and returning home with Expedition-16 Flight Engineer, NASA Astronaut Daniel Tani. The STS-122 mission was accomplished in 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5,296,832 statute miles in 203 Earth orbits.
STS-129 (November 16 to November 29, 2009) was the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station. During the mission, the crew delivered two Express Logistics Carriers (ELC racks) to the International Space Station, about 30,000 pounds of replacement parts for systems that provide power to the station, keep it from overheating, and maintain proper orientation in space. The mission also featured three spacewalks. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits, and returned to Earth bringing back with them NASA Astronaut, Nicole Stott, following her tour of duty aboard the space station.
Melvin has logged over 565 hours in space.