America’s first commercial astronaut and three others with perspectives on the latest developments in aerospace will serve as panelists at a special presentation 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 at Antelope Valley College’s Health and Sciences Building, Room HS 105, 3041 W. Ave. K, Lancaster.
“At the Leading Edge of Space” is the theme for the panel, that will include Lt. Col. Tim “Boomer” Jorris, director of the Air Force Hypersonic Combined Test Force; John Kelly, program manager for the Flight Opportunities Program at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center; Mike Melvill, who piloted SpaceShipOne to become the nation’s first commercial astronaut; and Eddie Zavala, program manager of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
William P. Warford, a teacher at The Palmdale Aerospace Academy and Valley Press columnist, will serve as moderator.
“Some of the greatest and most exciting advances in aerospace are taking place within the greater Antelope Valley area. Bringing together some of the people involved in these historic developments seemed like an appropriate way to help commemorate the opening of our Health and Sciences Building,” said Steve Standerfer, college director of public and governmental relations.
The $52 million Health and Sciences building provides labs and classrooms that support the college’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum – critical to the nation’s aerospace developments, Standerfer noted.
Jorris, who holds a doctorate in astronautical engineering, works at Edwards Air Force Base where hypersonic vehicle flight tests are conducted. Current development includes a scramjet engine demonstrator, hypersonic glide vehicle and reusable launch vehicle.
Kelly oversees the Flight Opportunities Program, which involves NASA seeking out contracts from private companies to provide services such as commercial launch vehicles.
Melvill earned his astronaut wings when, on June 21, 2004, he flew Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne to above 100 kilometers. As a pilot, he holds numerous world and national speed and altitude records. In addition, he served as vice president and general manager at Scaled Composites until his “semi-retirement” in 2007.
Zavala is responsible for overall development and operational service of SOFIA, which features a German-built 2.5-meter infrared telescope mounted in a modified Boeing 747SP. The program provides astronomers routine access to the infrared and sub-millimeter portions of the electromagnetic spectrum of the universe.
The free presentation is open to the public and will include video of some of the projects to be discussed. The panel is one of several events to commemorate the grand opening celebration for the building that begins at 9 a.m. that day with an opening ceremony attended by elected officials and community members. That will be followed by tours and demonstrations. Later on Sept. 27 beginning at 5:30 p.m. – for those unable to attend the morning activities – the college will host a reception and tours.
More details are available on the college’s website, www.avc.edu or by calling (661) 722-6300.