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Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  576 ratings  ·  115 reviews
In this revelatory and moving memoir, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success.

Leland Melvin is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the National Football League and in space
ebook, 256 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Amistad
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Jordan Kalt
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
In this personal memoir, Leland Melvin recounts his life from childhood to football and the NFL, to NASA and EVAs, to the community work he went on to do for the space program. And it's all generally about as exciting as that sentence.

The discussion of his experience in space is good, when it finally comes, but if you don't like football then the first 40% of the book may be a bit tough to get through. Overall the experience is not particularly well-written or eloquent and often suffers from po
Jennifer Mangler
"Taking extravagant pleasure in being alive." Melvin wrote that in his journal at one point along his NASA journey, and it encapsulated for me his approach to life. I appreciated his discussion of the obstacles he faced and how he worked to overcome them. His is an inspiring story.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
The narrative was not the most cohesive but still an enjoyable read. I wish his experiences in actual space travel were more detailed. Unfortunately that part of the book was relatively short, and his struggles with the physiological changes of zero gravity were some of the most interesting parts for me. I like the emphasis on his various missteps and failures, and I especially appreciate his continued dedication to outreach and education.
A nice memoir. I enjoyed hearing about Melvin growing up, in large part because he grew up really close to my hometown. His life has an interesting story, and his passion for STEM education is great. The book isn't very deep or very science-y itself, though, and the attempts to hang his story on the "grit, grace, and second chances" framework was a bit heavy-handed at times. Still, I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to hearing him speak at an event I'm attending in the future.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Leland’s experiences are varied and interesting. He has a brimming optimism and a belief that every person can and should follow their dreams. This book was an easy and entertaining read. He describes the entire NASA astronaut experience, not just the space flight parts, while also providing memoirs and insights into the life events that led him to becoming an astronaut.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: authors-of-color
This is a pretty good story of one man's life. Leland Melvin is the only man to have played in the NFL and flown in space. You can definitely be inspired by his determination. He never let a setback define his life. He always regrouped and pushed forward.

I only gave this book three stars though because at some point it just became tedious and there was less of how he got through things and more of a name-dropping this is what I did.

Nonetheless, I am proud of who he is and what he has done. I e
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readharder2019
I wish this had been better organized. His story is certainly interesting, but the book feels really scattered. Some sections went on much too long and there are other sections I'd love to have heard more about.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I was really hoping he would talk about sneaking his dogs into his official NASA portrait, since it’s on the cover and all, but it’s not in the book!
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2019, nonfic-bio
A little all over the place resulting in randomly hitting you with the depressing bits. overall, still entertaining.
Amy Jayasuriya
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about Leland's determination and his faith. Fantastic read.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had the good fortune to attend college in Melvin’s hometown and have seen him speak, so I was familiar with the main trajectory of his career but this book really opens up about his life and experience and he doesn’t shy away from the tough times and challenges. He has an easy-going writing style and while the last few chapters read more like a travel log of NASA events, I enjoyed Melvin’s message, especially his emphasis of merging arts into the STEM discipline.
David Wen
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
A feel good autobiography of Leland's life. There's nothing profound in what he's been through or what he says but it's an enjoyable read about what seems like a great guy who deserved everything he's earned. Would love to share a beer with him one day and hear his stories in person.
Monica Hocking
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This is nice book about never giving up on your dreams! Even with the adversity of a dream gets sidelined and/ or crushed. Sometimes you get a 2nd chance and change the course of how you ultimately accomplish your goals after all! But this book dragged on forever! Would definitely not re-read this one!
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
If I'm being honest, I only wanted to read this book because of the cover. The author's NASA photo was taken with his dogs? As a dog lover, I'm sold!

I didn't know anything about the author, Leland Melvin, prior to reading this book. But I'm glad I know about him now because he has lived an amazing and inspiring life. I really enjoyed reading about his life growing up and his life in space. But I have to admit, I was a little bored with some parts between those. But this was still a really great
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I never aspired to a life off the ground, much less to become an astronaut. I knew that whatever path of life I was on, I wanted to do my best."

"While I had a passion for doing many things, my goals hadn't included exploring the cosmos. The universe pulled me there. I somewhat serendipitously ended up at NASA because of a tenacious recruiter. I never imagined space travel until the possibility was presented to me. Just hearing the words that I would make a good astronaut changed me. Getting to
MaryBeth Long
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Mr. Melvin's life so far is an amazing story about a child from Lynchburg, VA who grew into a man who faced down adversity to make it into outer space and back. A University of Richmond and UVA grad, Melvin is smart, hard-working and loves his dogs. He names friends and family throughout but the book could be more human. I wish we could've learned what his parents/significant others/sibling thought and felt when he went about this American life.

Nice orbit, could use a bit more gounding.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Definitely a good read for me. I appreciated his writing style, bringing things down to Earth and telling his story as if he were just talking to you. Any forays into history were always pertinent and segued nicely with the main story. (Unlike some other space/science based stories I've read lately.)

Great story of Leland Melvin, the only person who has played in the NFL and gone to space. Those two things don't always go together in my head, but his book made it come to life for me.

Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A great story, just not well-written. If you're looking for a story about someone with grit, this is it.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Success is not linear, easy, or without challenge, but it is attainable with grit, perseverance, and help from others! This is the chief message I took from this book!

I’m thankful to have read this inspirational and poignant story about achievement, perseverance, overcoming challenges, handling the unexpected, second chances, and seizing opportunities. I could relate to Leland’s constant linkage to family, home, and friends throughout his journey. I think you will as well. I also appreciate his
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Melvin isn't the most lyrical writer, but he certainly captures the special moments as well as more down-to-earth activities from his long career at NASA, with side-trips into his work making STEM learning more available for kids everywhere, and his brief time playing pro football and hosting niche television shows. His voice is honest and down-to-earth. Accused of cheating on an exam and nearly getting kicked out of college, training at NASA in Houston, and at Russia's Star City, a chance meeti ...more
Book does not do this interesting man's story justice. Honestly, the only reason why I picked up this book was because I recognized the picture of Mr. Melvin with the dogs. It's a picture that has been around the internet and occasionally pops up now and again. So when I saw he had a book (although admittedly I had never heard of him before seeing the picture) I thought, why not? Someone who uses that picture as the cover of the book (and for other purposes I imagine) must have an eventful and f ...more
Tiffany Reads It All
Growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia, Leland Melvin never planned on becoming an astronaut. He had a love of chemistry as well as sports. However, Melvin found himself on an unexpected journey—one that would lead him first to the NFL, then to NASA.

An athlete from a young age, Melvin attended the University of Richmond on a football scholarship, where he would earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He would also complete a master’s degree in materials science engineering at the University of Virgini
May 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have read several biographies of Astronauts and this one is okay, but not great. The astronaut wrote it himself and I felt that he did not want to get "too personal" in his account. This book would have been improved with a co-writer or maybe a different author all together. For instance, there are very few dates in the first half of the book. Many of the events of his childhood, I vaguely remembered, so I thought that the author was about my age, but I was not sure. You don't find out for sur ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space, biography
So I have a thing for astronaut bios. I am just always impressed by these folks who are willing to strap themselves on top of bombs to hurtle into the void, push their bodies to the extremes, so we can learn more about our planet and ourselves (If you want more on that, read "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach). I didn't know much about Leland Melvin beyond the fact that he was the only astronaut (that I am aware of) to have his dogs in his official NASA photo, and I loved that about him.

Leland is
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just had the pleasure of both reading Leland Melvin's book and hearing him speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Both were very enjoyable experiences!

Leland is a man that has done what no one else has done - been drafted by the NFL and been on a NASA space shuttle mission (twice). Amazingly, neither of these were his life long goals.

Listening and reading Leland is to experience the joy of a man who has grown up in a loving family, taken advantage of every opportunity open to him, utilize
Linda Anderson
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an inspiring story. Many things happened to Leland and directed the course his life has taken. As a NASA retiree, I had heard of Leland but had not realized things he overcame to become an astronaut on STS 122 and 129. It is interesting that he was an engineer first and then an astronaut. As a person, he is humble, authentic, and a someone anyone would want to be friends with. The writing style is simple and easy to follow. Sometimes, he adds tangents for readers not familiar with space ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Mr. Melvin rose up from poverty to a career as an Astronaut. This is a feel good book with an intriguing look into the career of a NASA Astronaut. Melvin also shared his football career and academic struggles. The writing is fairly ordinary and the stories are well organized. I wasn't particularly amazed by any of his NASA stories.

The best parts of this book were the pivotal moments in his life that could have changed everything. The spoiler has a few details on those moments.

(view spoiler)
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The chances of a high school football player making it to the NFL are around .2% The chances of becoming an astronaut are even smaller. But there's one man who has beat the odds and done both. In Chasing Space Leland Melvin describes his unlikely path to space.

Melvin's story is inspiring and fascinating. I loved reading about life as an astronaut and was charmed by his affection for his shelter dogs. He faced so many challenges from a hamstring injury ruining his shot at an NFL career to a loss
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The cover was what attracted me to this book. When I was in elementary school I remember the excitement of the space race. Later I had a phase where I wanted to become an astronaut. Toss in a couple dogs and I had high expectations for this book. This was an audio book and I can tell how much I like a book by how often I have it playing in the background. I'm not a football fan, so that part of the story seemed to go on forever. There were moments that perked my interest such as the medical trai ...more
Honestly this fell flat for me and was a little disappointing. I liked the start of the book which focused on Melvin's upbringing but the overall scope of the book didn't focus on his time in space as much as I thought, and seemed to just drop a lot of names. There were parts of the book too that seemed to be out of step with today - the way Melvin reflects that the threat of physical punishment was an effective part of his childhood, his (to me) super patriotic thoughts about the anthem at game ...more
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