NASA astronaut Leland Melvin told Bill Nye that a police officer came close to ending his career before it even started
NASA astronaut Leland Melvin wears a spacesuit and is kissed by his dogs during an official photo shoot.
Leland Melvin - a black astronaut, engineer, and NFL soccer player - recently hosted NASA TV's coverage of the first spacecraft-launched rocket launch on May 30.
Before launching, Melvin faced the mission of the police killing George Floyd. "America, let's get our crap together, that's unsatisfactory. We have to stop," he said.
Bill Nye later interviewed Melvin about his life, career, and struggles with racism after the start. Melvin revealed that as a new high school graduate, he was almost arrested on false charges.
"You and I would not have this conversation now because I would have been in prison," said Melvin, had the incident led to his arrest. "Once you get into this system, getting out is sometimes very difficult."
Melvin said that just being a "good" person when it comes to racism is not enough: "If you sit there and watch and allow these atrocities to take place ... you are part of the problem."
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Leland Melvin launched twice on NASA spacecraft. Long before his astronaut career, Melvin was a materials science engineer and was even drafted by the NFL to play for the Detroit Lions.
In an interview with famous science communicator Bill Nye, president of the nonprofit Planetary Society, Melvin revealed a moment in which the color of his skin meant his future was in balance between a meteoric career and the prison system.
In 1979, Melvin had just graduated from Heritage High School in Lynchburg, Virginia and was enjoying his free time before going to the University of Richmond, where he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
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"I was in a car with my girlfriend after graduation and a policeman was rolling towards us," said Melvin Nye, who are all friends, in a YouTube video released by the Planetary Society. "We were just messing around, whatever."
When the soldier approached the car, Melvin said the officer had pulled out his girlfriend and put her in his cruiser. During his detention, the officer tried "to convince her that I rape her because he wanted me to go to prison," said Melvin.
"He said, 'If you don't say he rapes you, I'll put you in jail, your parents will have to come to get you, and then you'll have a file,'" he added, paraphrasing the The officer's words to his girlfriend at the time. "She said: 'No, I love him, he is my friend, he goes to college with a soccer scholarship, he is this and that' '" and she also went to college.
Finally Melvin said the officer had given up and let her go.
If he had been arrested on false charges, Melvin said to Nye: "You and I would not have this conversation now because I would have been in prison in the prison system. And once you are in this system it is sometimes very difficult to get out of it System to come out. "
"America, let's get our crap together."
SpaceX's demo 2 mission, launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, launches in a Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
Nye and Melvin spoke about two weeks after driving to Cape Canaveral to see how SpaceX launched its first humans into space: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
Melvin provided a live commentary on NASA television in a joint program with SpaceX during the launch of the mission. On May 30, the two men flew into the private company's new spacecraft Crew Dragon on a Falcon 9 rocket.
But after a scrubbed start-up attempt on May 27 - when the United States was hit by protests against the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white policeman just two days earlier - Melvin Cocoa Beach, Florida, entered his thoughts in a video He uploaded to Instagram.
"It has to stop. There is a pandemic against black men in this country now, and I really feel that it is hate, it is evil, it is racism - it is all these things - but it is the good people alongside these people [are] complicit for this to go on, "said Melvin in the video that was later highlighted in a Space.com story.
"I'm heartbroken ... I'm looking at the side by side doing the most technologically advanced - sending people into space - but a man dies in police custody?" he added. "America, let's get our crap together. It's unsatisfactory. We have to stop. And it will be the good people who are not doing anything now who are starting to do something to eradicate this hatred, evil, and racism."
During his conversation with Nye, Melvin explained the connection he felt when he saw the video of Floyd's death. (Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis official who is now charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, knelt on Floyd's neck when the man asked not only for air but also for his mother.)
STS-129 crew members pose for a portrait after a joint press conference with Expedition 21 crew members (out of frame) from the Harmony node of the International Space Station, while the Space Shuttle Atlantis remains docked at the station. Pictured lower left (clockwise) are astronauts Charles O. Hobaugh, Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin, Robert L. Satcher Jr., Randy Bresnik, Barry E. Wilmore and Nicole Stott.
"Bill, I started to cry," said Melvin. "I think I could have been, it could have been Bobby Satcher - the first time two African-American men were in space together - on STS 129," said Melvin, referring to his last space flight in November 2009.
Melvin was optimistic that things could change if the "good people" stopped looking, stepped aside and consistently spoke out against the racism they saw, while at the same time pushing for reforms to the racist policies and systems that were in place America has existed for generations.
"I think we are at a turning point in our country, really in the world with civil rights," he said.
Melvin acknowledged the violation of other communities and addressed the refrain among unappealing supporters that "all life is important". However, he emphasized the all too often fatal consequences of systemic racism against blacks, who are disproportionately killed by the police compared to other races.
"'Black Lives Matter' doesn't mean that all lives don't matter. There is now a pandemic in the Black Community that is destroying our lives," said Melvin. "So now we have to focus on the lives of black people."
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