Houston Matters

A new film reveals NASA’s hidden history

“The Space Race” tells the untold story of the first Black astronauts.

Former Astronaut Leland Melvin And His Dogs
In his official NASA portrait, astronaut Leland Melvin included his beloved dogs, Jake and Scout.


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A new documentary presented by National Geographic explores the history of NASA's first African American astronauts. It's called The Space Race, and it weaves together the stories of pioneering Black pilots, scientists, and engineers who redefined what "the right stuff" looks like.

One of the astronauts featured in the film is Leland Melvin, known for his now-famous NASA portrait featuring his two rescue dogs, Jake and Scout, who he secretly smuggled into NASA for the photoshoot. Melvin is also one of the executive producers of The Space Race.

In the above audio, Melvin tells Houston Matters producer Troy Schulze why it was important to bring this long-hidden history to light.