Born to Belgian and Indian immigrants in Arizona, Ved Chirayath grew up in Southern California with a passion for human space exploration. In 2003, as sophomore in high school, he modified a consumer digital camera and telescope to detect a new extra?solar planet, 150 light years away and roughly twice the size of Jupiter. Later that year, Ved received the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Distinguished Scientist Award and enrolled as the first American at Moscow State University’s Physics Department. After four and a half years in Russia, studying in an oppressive university and hostile environment, Ved resolved to move back to the United States and continue to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut. He is determined to challenge the status quo, stand up for LGBTQ rights and become the first openly LGBTQ identified astronaut, as well as a spokesperson for the LGBTQ community in aerospace and the natural sciences. In 2009, Ved transferred to Stanford University’s Physics Department to study Astrophysics. While finishing an additional concentration in Physics, he was accepted to the graduate program in Aeronautics & Astronautics and began researching a novel means to control aircraft. On March 31, 2011, Ved demonstrated the first controlled flight in history of an unmanned aerial vehicle by using plasma actuators — lightweight, efficient flow control devices blended onto the surface of the wing with no moving parts. Ved is also a professional fashion photographer and received funding from Stanford University for a photography exhibition and outreach project, “Physics In Vogue.” His photographs for the exhibition aim to shed light on profound contemporary physics discoveries by combining laboratory grade optical effects and scientific accuracy to create visual representations of complex science.