BRIDGEPORT– “The Right Stuff is the Never Give Up Stuff” proclaimed the sign above Astronaut Leland Melvin as he stood before the middle school students of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport on May 22.
“If you believe in yourself you can do anything,” Melvin told the middle school students from the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, who had gathered in the Edgerton Theater at Sacred Heart University. “If you have curiosity, it’s like lifetime learning. If you have curiosity, you can pick up a book and apply that learning to do something to better yourself, better your community, better your family.”
Melvin, who spent over 565 hours in space, twice orbiting the earth aboard the International Space Station, engaged the students with videos of astronauts catching M&Ms and flipping coins in zero gravity and gave them an engaging introduction to the science of space travel. “It takes three days to travel to the moon,” he told the students, “but to reach Mars takes eight months. Then you’d have to wait until Mars and Earth were in alignment before you could start the eight-month trip back.”
His presentation introduce students to a much deeper topic: the determination, patience and perseverance needed to achieve their dreams. Melvin earned a football scholarship to the University of Richmond, Virginia, was chosen to play for the Detroit Lions and then to the Dallas Cowboys before a pulled hamstring ended his football career.
His personal account of going back for graduate education, earning a master of science degree in materials science engineering and eventually going into space as a NASA astronaut held the students spellbound.
“The two most important days in your life are they day you were born, and the day you figure out WHY—why you were born. When you figure that out, don’t give up. Even if you fail, don’t give up.”
Melvin later brought his message to the youngsters of St. Raphael Academy and to the Cathedral Academy.