We already knew that retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin was pretty awesome. After all, the former NFL player has logged more than 10 million miles in space travel and met the Obamas and Elmo. Then we saw his official astronaut photo, the one with the dogs.
But of course, as with all the best things, NASA didn't exactly mean for this photo to happen. Melvin, who retired from NASA in February 2014, had a pretty long space career, according to the NASA website. He was an 11th-round draft pick in 1986 for the Detroit Lions, but after the NFL didn't work out, Melvin got a job at NASA.
In 1998 he was accepted into the astronaut program and he was on two missions, in 2008 and 2009, on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and orbited the Earth 374 times. However, his career was cut short after he went deaf during an underwater training exercise. He didn't let that stop him, though. Melvin became the head of NASA Education and is the co-chair of a White House Education Task Force to help develop the nation's STEM education plan.
It's unclear when the photo was taken, but Melvin apparently decided to really go for it when it came time for his official portrait. He admitted on Twitter that he snuck the dogs into NASA's photo studio to take the portrait. It's unclear if he knew this one photo would turn him into best astronaut ever (or at least our personal favorite).
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The photo in question started making the rounds on the Internet this week after Adam Aton, a Missouri reporter, stumbled across this photographic capturing of pure joy and tweeted it out to his followers and Melvin. (Melvin's Twitter handle is @Astroflow, as if he weren't already cool enough.) The photo shows Melvin decked out in his orange space suit seated alongside a model of a space shuttle, the standard fare for the traditional astronaut portrait, but it also includes Melvin's dogs, Jake and Scout.
— Adam Aton (@AdamAton) January 28, 2015