NASA astronaut to pay visit to Walla Walla

Leland Melvin, who returned from a flight to the International Space Station late last year, will speak in Walla Walla on Friday.

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WALLA WALLA - NASA astronaut Leland Melvin will be in Walla Walla on Friday to speak to area youths and community members.

Melvin will deliver a speech to elementary school students at Cordiner Hall at 10 a.m., and follow-up with a talk to middle- and high-school students, as well as interested Whitman College students, at 1 p.m.

At 7 p.m., Melvin will speak at the Solid Rock Christian Fellowship Center, 416 Wellington Ave., in Walla Walla. The lecture is free and open to the public, an organizer said.

Melvin is in Walla Walla through an invitation by Jubilee Youth Ranch and Academy.

Melvin joined NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Texas in June 1998. In his more than 10-year career with NASA, he has made two space flights - a trip on the STS-122 Atlantis in 2008 to the International Space Station, and a flight in November 2009, the latest NASA space flight, to the International Space Station.

Both trips involved delivery or installation of parts and equipment. The latest trip also included three space walks, according to the NASA Web site.

During the November 2009 flight, Melvin traveled 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits. Through both missions, he logged more than 565 hours in space, according to the site.

The 46-year-old astronaut earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1986 from the University of Richmond in Virginia, and a master's in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia in 1991.

Before becoming an astronaut, Melvin was a professional football player, having been drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL college draft. He also participated in the Toronto Argonauts and Dallas Cowboys football training camps.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

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