The Amazing Story Behind This NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin Official Portrait with His Two Dogs

We have seen several astronauts’ portraits in the past. However, one of these images stood out from the rest. Unlike other astronauts, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin posed for his official NASA portraits with his two big dogs. Why did Melvin decide to pose with his two best friends? Continue reading to find out.

How Leland Melvin Began His Career As NASA Astronaut

Astronaut Leland Melvin with his rescue dogs, Jake and Scout, Image Credit: NASA

Leland Devon Melvin is an American engineer and a retired NASA astronaut born on February 15, 1964. He started working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1989. After he was selected to head the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program in 1994, he proceeded to co-design and supervise the construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility in 1996.

Melvin’s dedication and hard work made him to be selected as a NASA astronaut in June 1998. He made his first space trip to low Earth orbit aboard the Shuttle Atlantis in 2008 where he served as a mission specialist during the STS-122 mission. In 2009, Melvin participated in his second mission aboard the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station.

Throughout his spaceflight as an astronaut, Melvin has spent over 565 hours in space. The renowned astronaut is publicly recognized as the coolest astronaut in the galaxy because of his effort in exploring space and for his other contributions.

Why NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin Posed With Two Big Dogs

While posing for his official astronaut portrait in 2009, Melvin allowed his two rescue dogs Jake and Scout to join him. The photo revealed how he cuddles and kisses the dogs. However, getting pets into NASA’s photoshoot studio is quite difficult. But Melvin was smart enough to sneak them into the studio for the photoshoot. During an interview with Gizmodo, the renowned astronaut revealed why he posed with his dogs for his official portrait.

“I had a van and I drove the dogs in,” Melvin told Gizmodo. “NASA doesn’t allow dogs to be on-site, so when I showed them my NASA badge, I kept the window up…and I had the stereo blasting because the dogs were barking. So I gunned it and the [security guard] didn’t chase me or anything.”

Melvin revealed that when he arrived at Studio 8 at the Johnson Space Center, he followed the back stairs to take Jake and Scout into the photoshoot room. He never planned to snap with the dogs. However, when the dogs ran over him when the photographer was about to commence with the shoot, Melvin considered allowing the dogs into the photos.

“I had all these dog bones, and they were just sitting there eating the bones, just grubbin’ and happy,” he said. “The dogs just ran over to me. And [I said] the guy who took the picture, Robert Markowitz, ‘Dude, start shooting!’” And that was how the trending portraits came into existence.

How Melvin Met Jake and Scout

Jake and Scout will be going into space in Leland Melvin’s book, “Chasing Space.”Credit of Leland Melvin

Melvin further revealed how his rescue dogs reacted during the shoot.

“Jake was nibbling my ear,” Melvin said. “Scout was all up in my grill, like, ‘Hey, what’s going on here? What is he doing?’ But if you look at the picture, all of us are holding hands, all of us are connected. And it was just incredible. That picture was just amazing to me.”

Melvin revealed that he met the dogs long before the heartwarming photo. The astronaut said that Jake was first rescued on a certain Thanksgiving Day, while Scout was found later in his yard.

“I was cooking a turkey and Jake was right beside me waiting for something to drop, and my neighbor came over and said, ‘Leland, Jake’s in the front yard.’ I was confused because Jake was next to me,” Melvin said.

“I went outside and there was this dog in my yard. So I brought him in, and he had no collar or tag. No one claimed him…I think someone might have dumped him because he had heartworms.”

Hence, Melvin proceeded to nurse Scout back to health. From that day henceforth, the three lived together.

However, Jake passed away due to old age while Scout also passed on due to lymphoma. Melvin revealed that saying goodbye to his best friends was difficult, but the beautiful memories they shared will last forever.

“Jake and I hiked up to the top of Columbia Point, honoring the Columbia crew,” he said. “We didn’t make it up to the plaque at 14,00 feet, but we got pretty close. There are just a lot of things that connect my dogs with space travel and journeys.”

Melvin has immortalized the memories of these dogs in his book published titled “Chasing Space” in 2017.


NASA astronaut Leland Melvin sneaked his two rescue dogs into the studio for his official NASA portrait in 2009. Even though these dogs have both passed away, Melvin has immortalized their memories in his 2017 book. What do you think about this beautiful portrait? If have an interest in observing the universe, you may consider checking out these best telescopes.

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