Astronaut shares NASA photo spotlight with his dogs

Awww. Astronaut Leland Melvin snuck his furry best friends Jake and Scout into his official NASA photo, which quickly went viral online.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
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Dogs are man's best friends in any galaxy. NASA

When astronaut Leland Melvin sat for his official NASA photo, he decided to let his dogs Jake and Scout in on the action. Considering Melvin's extraordinary life story full of career obstacles, such an endearing staff photo just seems to make sense.

In fact, when Melvin tweeted photos of his dogs sitting patiently beside him and then jumping up to give him some affection, the images were tweeted and retweeted thousands of times.

Long before he was wearing the signature orange spacesuit, Melvin was a pro football player for the Detroit Lions in the late '80s, and then with the Dallas Cowboys. Melvin left his career in sports after an injury and did the next best thing -- he went to space.

With a background in engineering, Melvin worked for NASA starting in 1989 and became an astronaut in 1998, flying missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2008 and 2009.

Melvin suffered another injury, this time going deaf during an underwater training exercise. Surgery recovered some of his hearing, but he was medically disqualified from participating in any additional space missions. That didn't stop Melvin from continuing his career with NASA, however.

Melvin went on to work as the head of NASA education and sat as the co-chair of the White House Education Task Force to encourage students to get excited about STEM subjects. He has toured schools promoting STEM and space education as the co-manager of NASA's Educator Astronaut Program.

He also served in the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office. When he's not in the classroom or at speaking engagements, he's hosting the reality TV show "Child Genius" for the Lifetime Network.

But he's not the only star in the family. Melvin's dogs Jake and Scout were featured in a 2010 episode of "The Dog Whisperer." And while the pups won't be making any voyages to distant planets, they've already gained quite a fan base here on Earth.

If dogs joined astronauts in space, would fleas find the final frontier? NASA