(September 28, 2020) AIAA Member Spotlight on Michelle Evans

Michelle Evans
AIAA Distinguished Lecturer
AIAA Member
Founder and President, Mach 25 Media (www.Mach25Media.com)
Writer, Photographer, and Communications Specialist in aerospace

Michelle Evans is the founder and president of Mach 25 Media (www.Mach25Media.com) and is a writer, photographer, and communications specialist in aerospace. She has written the bestselling book “The X-15 Rocket Plane, Flying the First Wings into Space” which was published by the University of Nebraska Press as part of their “Outward Odyssey, People’s History of Spaceflight” series.
Michelle’s background in aerospace engineering includes serving in the US Air Force working on missile systems, and later in private industry accomplishing environmental testing for systems used in airliners and spacecraft. Her current work with Mach 25 Media provides education and display services for astronaut appearances and other space-related events at government facilities, science centers, schools, and other venues across the country and overseas.
Michelle was elected as the President of the Orange County Space Society for 14 years, overseeing the group’s activities on science, exploration, and technology outreach throughout California, across the United States, as well as overseas in Izmir, Turkey. Working with Global Friendship Through Space Education, she helped partner school children in the United States with those in Turkey and other countries for programs at Space Camp Turkey. In conjunction with her work there, she also led a tour group to witness the total solar eclipse from Manavgat, Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. Locally, she has worked extensively with, and has provided permanent exhibit artifacts for the Tessmann Planetarium at Santa Ana College.
Michelle is a Distinguished Lecturer with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and her book on the X-15 was a finalist for the Eugene M. Emme Award for Astronautical Literature. Michelle received the Diverse Community Leader Award from Orange County Human Relations, and was recognized as number 3 on the Orange County Register’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in Orange County. She has appeared in numerous publications, including Air & Space Smithsonian, Ad Astra, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. Michelle had a feature story about her life in Time magazine. She was a technical consultant on the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” and has consulted with National Geographic television.
On transgender issues Michelle is the founder of the TG Rainbow support group which has operated in Tustin for the past 10 years. She is also the Transgender Coordinator for the PFLAG Speakers Bureau for Orange County and Long Beach, and has spoken to high schools, colleges, universities, civic groups, private companies, governmental agencies, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy nearly 300 times over the past 13 years. She and her wife Cherie, have been vocal advocates for trans rights, specifically in the fight for marriage equality that raged for more than a decade before finally being settled in favor of all LGBTQ people by the Supreme Court. Michelle has also been instrumental in the education of medical insurance companies when it comes to the needs and rights of transgender patients.

Michelle Evans with X-15 pilot and astronaut Joe Engle. (Courtesy of Michelle Evans)
Michelle Evans with the X-15 at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (Courtesy of Michelle Evans)

AIAA Member Spotlight on Col. Charles Vono (May 18, 2020)

AIAA Member Spotlight on Col. Charles Vono (May 18, 2020)

Col. Charles Thomas Vono
AIAA Associate Fellow
Retired, Northrop Grumman (legacy TRW) and USAF
Born in 1952, Charles Thomas Vono grew up in Wasco, a small farming town just north of Bakersfield, California. His father, Mike, had been a ball turret gunner in B-24s, flying up the Adriatic to deliver death to Nazi industry. Charlie was named after his uncle who was a gunner as well, fighting in every major naval battle of the Pacific and then on to exploring Antarctica post WWII. The battles started with assignment to the New Orleans, dry-docked in Pearl Harbor and fighting back with their guns. (See the famous WWII song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”). As a kid, Charlie got various jobs around Wasco where he was known as the nephew of the man who ran Vono Jewelers. (Uncle Chuck took over after Charlie’s father passed away in 1956.) Around 15, he got various jobs at farms outside of town, and then his last civilian job was selling door to door in Bakersfield. Like Dwight Yokum he has “Walked the Streets of Bakersfield”. 
Althought he wasn’t exactly Merle Haggard’s “Radiator Man from Wasco”, Charlie’s maternal grandfather was the top mechanic at the Dodge Garage in Wasco. Charlie’s paternal grandparents were from Curcoli, Calabria, Italy. He had the good fortune to visit his ancestral village last July where they still remember Tommasso Vono as a “mean SOB” or words to that effect in Italian. Concetta died of the Spanish Flu in Des Moines, and Tommasso died in the Des Moines prison, leaving orphaned two sons (Mike and Chuck) and 3 daughters. 
Moving along to 1969, it was “cutting over rows” with a shovel in 110-degree heat, at a farm west of Wasco Charlie remembers most clearly looking up and seeing a jet flying overhead from Edwards AFB. “I bet,” he thought “those guys have air conditioning in those cockpits”. This is somewhat akin to the answer Buck Owens gave when asked, “Why’d you get into Country Music?” “I sure as hell didn’t want to pick cotton the rest of my life!” Why join the AF? The air conditioning!
Charles graduated from the USAF Academy in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in Astronautical Engineering with significant coursework in control theory and computer science. Charlie says he owes a lot of his academic ability to the good Sisters of Saint Francis who taught him at St. John’s Elementary School and his realization he could take on any profession to the local priest who told him he could. While at the USAF Academy, Charlie met his future wife, Juanita Williamson. They are celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary 4 June 2020. They have 3 married children and 3 grandchildren… so far. Nita is a real estate agent, Utah state fair blue-ribbon quilter (she’s sewing lots of face masks right now), and rescues turtles. Charlie’s place in southeast Ogden is a turtle sanctuary with hills, creek, and a pond. 
Charlie’s first assignment in the USAF was at Beale AFB in Strategic Air Command as a KC-135 air refueling pilot supporting the worldwide reconnaissance mission of the SR-71. Charlie also has a Master of Science in Systems Management from USC. He got this during his second USAF assignment in 1982 as Inertial Upper Stage Software Systems Chief at Space Division (now Space and Missile Center) in Los Angeles back in the days of Systems Command. This degree stood him in good stead during his 25-year career with TRW and Northrop Grumman sustaining our nation’s ICBM force in Utah (1985 to 2014 with a 4 year pause in the middle). Many of his fellow sustainers possessed the same degree and applied the principles of systems engineering to management of this complex system. Charlie also has a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University, again with significant coursework in control theory. Charlie was thrilled to have his primary professor be a man who had been on the control systems design team for the Saturn V. 
While he separated from the USAF at the end of his Los Angeles career, he stayed active in the USAF reserves filling various positions at Hill AFB in Utah. He was a structural engineer in F-16s, a quality control engineer (writing Hill’s first Quality Plan for competition), and manpower. Upon promotion to colonel, Charlie applied and won a full-time position on the commander’s staff at Pacific Command, a joint command responsible for 2/3rds of the Earth. Charlie was the Reserve Forces Division Chief at a time when the US was generating its first ever partial mobilization of all reserve forces after the 911 attacks. 
After this assignment, in 2003, Charlie returned to his position at TRW sustaining ICBMs, except TRW had been bought by Northrop Grumman. Charlie took on various challenges at that time, including acting chief of ICBM Propulsion and Northrop Grumman manager for ICBM Guidance Systems, before retiring in 2014. 
Before retiring, one of Charlie’s duties was teaching Minuteman III ICBM general familiarization to contractors and USAF personnel. In retirement, Charlie remains active in AIAA, INCOSE, and SAME and is an AIAA distinguished lecturer. He travels the country (pre-virus) giving presentations on “Refueling the SR-71 during the Cold War”, “How to Keep Complex Systems Effective for Decades”, “How ICBMs Work and Why They are Important”, and “Evans’ Flour Mill, the First Modern Factory”. Charlie loves to show how today’s world sprang from Industrial Revolution and WWII innovations. He gave a half-day class on keeping complex systems effective for decades at the 2018 INCOSE Western States Regional Conference. 
Just before the virus, on 3 March, he was the keynote speaker for the 45th Dayton-Cincinnati Aerospace Sciences Symposium, where he became the first ever aerospace speaker to start his keynote leading the auditorium crowd in several verses of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!”.
Charlie is past chair of the Utah Engineers Council, a council of 17 engineering societies in the State of Utah that celebrate engineers week each year by declaring Utah engineer of the year and giving away 15 to 20 scholarships to undergraduate students in engineering. Charlie started the annual tradition of supporting a STEM booth at the Salt Lake City FanX comics convention, the 3rd largest in the US. Teaming with Hill AFB on this endeavor ensures amazing displays such as an F-16 cockpit for the kids and their parents to try out. 
Charlie has posted his AIAA technical papers, posts, and presentations at his web site: charlesvono.com. He has ebooks on sustainment available at Amazon.com. You can find him on facebook (Charles Thomas Vono) and LinkedIn (Charles Vono). 
Charlie will give an exciting and popular lecture/webinar with AIAA LA-LV “In-flight Refueling the SR-71 During the Cold War” on August 8, 2020. Please join us and enjoy!

Col. Charlie Vono (USAF – Retired)

Member Spotlight (Feb. 17, 2020) on Dr. Anita Sengupta

Member Spotlight (Feb. 17, 2020) on Dr. Anita Sengupta:

Dr. Anita Sengupta
Co-Founder at Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX)
Former NASA Engineer
Former Hyperloop Engineer

Dr. Sengupta is an aerospace engineer, rocket scientist, pilot, and veteran of the space program. She worked for NASA for 16 years where her engineering projects included her PhD research on developing the ion propulsion system for the Dawn Mission (currently in the main asteroid belt), the supersonic parachute that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, and the Cold Atom Laboratory an atomic physics facility now on board the International Space Station.

After leaving NASA she led the development of the hyperloop as senior vice president of engineering systems at Virgin Hyperloop, a technology that can enable ground based travel in excess of airline speed.

Her current venture is Co-Founder at Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX), an electrified autonomous VTOL urban aerial mobility technology company. As an engineering savvy executive and pilot, she is now leading the mobility solutions for smart cities by eliminating congestion and reducing the carbon footprint of air travel.

Dr. Sengupta received her MS and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, where she is also a Research Associate Professor of Astronautics and Space Technology specializing in interplanetary entry system and green transportation technology.

In her spare time she is an avid pilot, motorcyclist, scuba diver, snowboarder, hiker, long distance runner, and Sci-Fi fan.

Her childhood inspiration was science fiction, specifically Dr. Who and Star Trek.

Member Spotlight (Feb. 24, 2020) on Dr. Junhan Kim

Member Spotlight (Feb. 24, 2020) on Dr. Junhan Kim:

Dr. Junhan Kim
Robert A. Millikan Postdoctoral Scholar in Physics
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Junhan is an experimental astrophysicist and has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech since September 2019. He finished Ph.D. in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. As a graduate student, he worked on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT; https://eventhorizontelescope.org) project to study the supermassive black holes.

The EHT project is an experiment that announced its first results last year: imaging the nuclear black hole in the galaxy M87. The EHT combines a global network of widely separated radio telescopes to simulate a much larger aperture, to make images at the highest angular resolution ever achieved. He developed a receiver for the South Pole Telescope (SPT; https://pole.uchicago.edu), and the EHT became a true Earth-sized virtual telescope with the successful addition of the SPT to the array. For this work, he has traveled to the South Pole, Antarctica, five times since 2014. He is broadening the research area from the black hole study to observational cosmology with several new projects at Caltech.

He has been fascinated by astronomy since high school when he took pictures of astronomical objects as a hobby. He was curious about the nature of the objects he photographed and enjoyed expanding knowledge on the subject by reading college-level textbooks. Also, he found electric circuits and robots to be very interesting as well. Therefore, he studied both electrical engineering and astronomy at Seoul National University in South Korea before entering graduate school in the US. During the undergraduate years, he realized that astronomy had expanded its research frontiers with the help of leading-edge instruments and techniques. Then he decided to take part in the development and application of technologies to achieve still-unsolved problems in astrophysics.

He very much enjoys sharing his scientific experiences with others. He had a chance to share his graduate work with AIAA LA-LV section members as soon as he moved to California last Fall (November 9, “Event Horizon Telescope: Studying Black holes from the South Pole”). Recently, he wrote a popular science book, “Exploring the Universe from the South Pole,” in Korean with his friend Dr. Jae Hwan Kang (Stanford University). In the book, the authors share their experience at the South Pole and introduce the astronomers’ efforts to take pictures of the black holes and search for the signal from the early universe.