Oct. 8, 2010
For Immediate Release
By Katie Johnson, student news writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – From going mysteriously deaf for months to dropping an end zone pass that could have cost him his college career, one might think that Leland Melvin has had terrible luck.
But despite being medically discharged from NASA’s flight program and losing the pass, Melvin went on to obtain a four year football scholarship from the University of Richmond and flew not once, but twice into outer space. Overcoming obstacles has made Melvin into the individual that he is today. “If you fail, pick yourself up and keep going,” he said to the FIRST CLASS assembly during his visit to Campbellsville University.
Melvin’s message was “Living Your Dreams.” He is living out his own dream by being a part of NASA, whether it is through the education program, which he helps operate, or the missions in space where he has replenished the space station.
He informed the students on the training program that all astronauts must endure in order to receive qualification to fly. All future astronauts must complete a survival course similar to that of Air Force pilots. This training is enforced to help the astronauts understand what must be done if you had to eject while in flight. They are taught to live off the land by creating their own shelter, heat source and find their own food.
Melvin also described zero gravity simulation that takes place in a plane nicknamed “The Vomit Comet.” The trainees are taken into the air, there the plane takes on an up and down path, much like a parabola. This motion results in zero gravity, which gives the astronauts a dose of the sensation they will experience while in space. The name “Vomit Comet” was created due to the fact that many people become sick while in flight on the “ride.”
From training Melvin went on to describe his experience in space. In February 2008, Melvin boarded the STS-122 Atlantis for his first mission to the International Space Station. His job was to operate a robotic arm to replace and make repairs to various areas of the station that needed mending. The mission took 12 days and the astronauts flew and orbited the Earth for 5,296,832 miles.
Melvin’s second mission was in November 2009, where he once again traveled to the International Space Station along with 30,000 pounds of replacement parts for the station. This mission lasted 10 days, which included 171 orbits around the Earth.
He shared with the assembly some of the side affects of being in space. When in outer space there is no gravity, so the body is in a totally different realm that what it is accustomed to. There is no outside force holding the body to solid ground. The spine reacts to this by separating or stretching. Each vertebrate is loosened. So when you go into space you grow an entire inch because the spine is extended. This sometimes leads to lower back pain while in space.
Also, to retain muscle, the astronauts must exercise everyday. Since there is no gravity there is no resistance, so resistance exercises are practiced so those in space will not lose their sense of gravity and in turn will keep their strength.
Melvin encouraged space exploration by asking, “Who wants to be the first Kentuckian to walk on the Martian surface?” He said, “As long as we are human beings we have to continue to explore…as soon as we stop exploring, society will falter.” Melvin is the head of all educational programs for NASA, so he is always on the search for potential astronauts to continue the quest in outer space.
Melvin, the first football player in space and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, visited with the CU football team and the CU Board of Trustees, where he was presented with an autographed football.
He informed the team and the assembly “you are the future, so set the example. We are all role models, whether good or bad. So be aware that someone is always looking up to you. Be the example they need you to be.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with over 3,000 students offering 63 undergraduate programs, 17 master’s degrees and five postgraduate areas. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.