Astronaut-Athlete Shares Life Experience That’s Out of This World


Last Updated on March 26, 2024

There have been two constants in Larry DeLucas’ life: his desire to reach for the stars and his determination here on earth. DeLucas accomplished them both. One as an astronaut. The other, firmly grounded in the world of masters athletics.

At bowling, he’s a natural. The space part was more of a dream, born when he was emotionally overcome seeing a shuttle launch in person. 

“I was crying. It’s so powerful and I just knew somehow I have to get selected and experience this,” DeLucas recalled. “So I applied, got turned down, applied, got turned down, and after six years NASA selected me and I ended up flying on the space shuttle Columbia in 1992.”

DeLucas says the experience was life changing. His views of the world changed when he got a literal view of the world from space.

“I just realized we’re all so close together and we have to find a way to live together,” DeLucas said.

He also realized that if you have a chance to do something that’s never been done before, take it! DeLucas is the first person to ever dunk a basketball in space!

Watch Larry dunk in space!
Video Courtesy of Larry DeLucas

“I’m the only person in the world that beat Michael Jordan’s hang time, because I took that ball, we had this little goal with suction cups that we put on the wall and I did a flip in the air, I bounced off a couple walls and then over my head I slam-dunked it and ripped the goal off the wall and just doing that spun me around,” DeLucas laughed.

That was thirty years ago. These days, the man who once touched the stars, is now striking down pins at the bowling alley, and shattering the stereotype that age must slow us down.  

“I told the organizer for bowling how much I enjoyed it. It was so much fun. I bowl in leagues, I bowl all over in tournaments all over the country,” DeLucas said. “It’s the people, getting to meet people in all these different States, it’s just been wonderful. Here at the National Senior Games, I have a lot of people, we have similar experiences, and mine is a little far out, but they’re still similar experiences and so you’ll find, if you compete in this, you’re going to go away happy.”

It’s not just bowling, he also plays cornhole! He even won a bronze medal for it, at the 2023 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, PA. And for all the things he learned in space, he’s learned even more from competing.  

“Sports always taught me that when you get knocked down, you get back up,” says DeLucas.

Once an astronaut whose very existence seemed to defy gravity, Larry now stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. From the stars to the lanes, he has transitioned from a life amongst the constellations to one firmly grounded on earth. But his is a story of determination, perseverance, and exploration that continues at this stage of life.

“Don’t give up, keep trying. I’m probably going to bowl till I can’t lift the ball anymore and I have lowered my weight. Maybe each year I’ll get a slightly lighter ball if that helps me compete better, but just keep being competitive because I think it’ll keep you going longer,” says DeLucas.

DeLucas, a man who reached for the stars, now looks towards new horizons, as an example of what life can be like for those who dare to dream and never stop moving forward. 

For more inspirational stories on masters athletes, check out

This article is featured in the Winter 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.

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