“Chasing Space: Young Readers Edition,” by Leland Melvin (Amistad) was a great book. The book is about his remarkable life.
Leland was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1964. He was an ordinary kid, went to church every Sunday, worked and did chores, was a good student and liked to play sports. However, he did shine in three areas: science, tennis and football. Throughout his school career he was always on a sports team and was doing great in science. He later dropped tennis since he would get a college scholarship if he was a football player.
When Leland was 11, his life changed for the better. His dad came home with a bread truck. When he inquired what it was for, his dad replied by saying it was going to be their camper for road trips. He learned to have a vision and plan things out when they transformed the truck. He saw the beautiful stars when they traveled in the truck. This experience opened his eyes to astronomy and made him want to one day be in space.
His college football team was not good. They had a five-year losing streak when he joined. Eventually, thanks to his team’s hard work, they broke the streak and won in his senior year. Thanks to their win, Leland was drafted into the NFL by the Detroit Lions. This was short-lived due to a hamstring injury. The next year the same thing happened when he was with Dallas Cowboys. He never played a single game in the NFL.
Due to his short NFL career, Leland got a second chance to pursue science. He decided to learn at the University of Virginia. He was offered a job by NASA. He was in the astronaut class of 1998, also known as the Penguins since they would not fly for a while. He became an educator whose job was to inspire the next generation of astronauts. It would take until 2008 for him to fly on a mission. He underwent intensive training, and one challenge was so difficult, he suffered permanent hearing loss. In 2009 Leland got to go into space with the shuttle Atlantis. His job was to add parts to the International Space Station. After his 24-year long career at NASA, Leland retired in January 2014.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sports or the sciences. I am sure anyone could appreciate Melvin’s time in the NFL and his journey in sports. The most important part of the book to me is at the end, where he proposes the idea that the person who reads this book could be part of the next generation of astronauts.
Elisa Brosnan and Marybeth Clark’s writing and art club, West Hollow Middle School, Melville