Former NFL player, NASA astronaut talks space and racism with Bill Nye

Melvin said that he could deeply relate to the death of George Floyd and the great anger this tragedy ignited among black people in the US.

Astronaut Leland D. Melvin, mission specialist (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Astronaut Leland D. Melvin, mission specialist
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Leland Melvin, the only man to play for the NFL only to later serve as a NASA astronaut, spoke with The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye about his experiences growing up as a black man in America and shared his deep commitment to science and the ideals of learning. 
“I want that life off-planet to be a model that we adopt and bring back down here. Because we get over our differences in space...that’s the power of working on a team in a critical environment. Our Earth is a critical environment too," Melvin said, describing the unity he felt with his fellow astronauts on the International Space Station.

Melvin said that he could deeply relate to the death of George Floyd and the great anger this tragedy ignited among black people in the US. 
He revealed that, in high school, a police officer attempted to convince a woman he was dating that Melvin was actually sexually assaulting her. It was only her refusal to agree with the cop that saved him from landing in prison, a turn of events that would have changed his entire life. 
He played college football and was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but a training injury prevented him from playing long. After he healed, Melvin played for the Dallas Cowboys, but another injury prevented him from continuing with football.
It was at this point he turned to thinking seriously about a career in space. He would eventually spend more than 560 hours in space as a mission specialist, his memoir Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances was released in 2017. 
Melvin argued that space can be a great teacher of how all people could, and should, overcome their differences as this planet could also be thought of as a spaceship.