Image courtesy of CBS This Morning

Richmond, we have liftoff!

Astronaut Leland Melvin is once again taking off. This week, Harper Collins released the former NASA astronaut’s first book Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.

Melvin’s drive embodies so much of what it means to be a Spider. He is one of only 550 people ever to travel to space, and CBS This Morning also pointed out this week that even his path into orbit sets him apart.

While at Richmond, he was a standout wide receiver for the football team and was drafted by the Detroit Lions after graduating. When injuries sidelined his career in the NFL, his backup plan was going to space.

Melvin became an astronaut thanks to the support and determination he had to pursue his love of science, which started with a childhood chemistry set (and a minor explosion) in his mother’s living room.

“It was a lot of people who had my back when I failed,” Melvin told CBS This Morning. “My mother and father always told me you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Melvin’s book chronicles his personal journey from Richmond to the NFL and to NASA. And with a young readers’ edition — complete with science experiments — the book is also part of his effort to educate and get more young people excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.

"My mission is to take the experiences that I had in space — seeing this incredible planet, going around [it] every 90 minutes, seeing the sun rise and the sun set every 45 — and bring that down to the classroom so the kids can say, 'Wow, I can do that. And that guy looks kind of like me. Maybe I can be an astronaut,'" Melvin told CBS This Morning’s co-hosts.

Melvin knows how to have fun, too! Check out his interview and mini dance party (!) at Gizmodo: “We Chatted With the World’s Coolest Astronaut about Inspiring Kids and Sending Dogs to Space.”   

Wow! You’ve got to have a special kind of grit, mad skills, and determination to get where Melvin has. But when you arrive, you just might be looking at the world in wonder from outer orbit.