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KSC Advises Pilots On December 24 Santa Claus Fly-By

Jolly Ol' St. Nick Reportedly Interested In New Lightning Protection System

NASA tells ANN the space agency has granted permission to Santa Claus to access Kennedy Space Center's airspace on Christmas Eve, December 24.

The jolly fellow, in his reindeer-propelled sleigh, is expected to fly over the center sometime between 2200 and midnight EST to take a close look at the ongoing construction at Launch Pad 39B. Workers are installing a new lightning protection system as part of the efforts to transition the pad from a space shuttle facility into the launch site for the Constellation Program's Ares I crew launcher.

NASA says officials at the North Pole are interested in the weather safety upgrades at the launch pad because they may install a similar system around Santa's workshop. The new system at Pad 39B will feature large cables strung between three 594-foot-tall steel and fiberglass towers. The towers will be the tallest structures on KSC property when completed, surpassing the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building.

"We're always concerned about safety, so following NASA's lead is always a good idea," said chief toymaker Buzz Elfrin. He added that Space Coast residents and families living in surrounding areas may be able to catch a glimpse of Santa during his flyby of the center, depending on the sleigh's altitude.

The launch pad will be the site of the first Ares test flight, called Ares I-X, scheduled for 2009.

The automated landing systems will be left on in the automatic mode at the Shuttle Landing Facility during Christmas Eve to support any emergency Santa may experience while in the Central Florida area. No government expense is involved in leaving these landing systems on.

Although it has never been confirmed that Santa has made a pit stop at Kennedy, a routine sweep of the runway to remove debris after the holidays last year produced one ripped stocking, a broken toy truck and what appeared to be reindeer tracks.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/constellation

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