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Astronaut takes a piece of Liberty into space

November 17, 2009 : University Advancement staff

NASA astronaut Leland Melvin speaks at Liberty University on April 7, 2008.

Just over a year and half ago, Liberty University welcomed NASA astronaut Leland Melvin as a main speaker at a weekly convocation service. Now the Lynchburg, Va., native is taking a piece of Liberty University with him into space.

According to Dave Young, dean of Liberty University's School of Aeronautics, Melvin requested to take a token of the university with him on his second space mission, which launched Monday. A School of Aeronautics patch was selected.

“The School of Aeronautics is honored that Leland chose our patch to take into space," Young said. "He is a wonderful example to our students of what can be achieved through faith and hard work.”

Melvin is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Back in Lynchburg, the community — including Liberty University — has dubbed Melvin a “hometown hero.” At Liberty’s April 7, 2008, convocation, Melvin was honored by Lynchburg Mayor Joan Foster, who read a proclamation declaring “Monday, April 7, 2008, Leland Melvin Day.” Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said Melvin’s visit was significant for Liberty and for the city of Lynchburg.

“It’s great for Liberty and the city to recognize a local hero. Liberty’s becoming a more integral part of the city and this is part of that.”

Melvin graduated from Heritage High School in Lynchburg in 1982. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Richmond and a Master of Science degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia. Melvin is also a star athlete. He was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL draft and participated in the Toronto Argonauts and Dallas Cowboys football training camps.

At a news conference after his 2008 visit to Liberty, Melvin said being able to speak at the world’s largest Christian university was exciting.

“This is great … the Vines Center, just the love and support from here and the outpouring. It’s a wonderful university, very positive, people doing the right thing.”

As co-manager of NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program, Melvin has traveled across the U.S. educating thousands of students about space exploration and inspiring them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

  • A free download of Melvin’s talk at Liberty, “My Time in Space,” is available from iTunes U (under Liberty University/Convocation).
  • Follow Melvin on Twitter and read more about his endeavors at www.nasa.gov.