Kennedy News

Bruce Buckingham
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Dec. 20, 2002
RELEASE : 130-02
Santa And KSC Landing Team Set For Possible Christmas Eve Contingency
As children in Central Florida and around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, Santa and NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) landing convoy team are rumored to have conducted secret exercises to address any possible contingencies that might arise during Santa's annual space flight.

Continuing a long-standing tradition at KSC, the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), also known this time of the year as the "Sleigh" Landing Facility, will be available to Santa if an emergency landing is required during his mission. Built in 1975, the landing strip is 300 feet wide and 15,000 feet long, with 1,000-foot overruns at each end. It extends from northwest to southeast and is located about three miles from the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building.

In the event of an emergency landing by the reindeer-propelled sleigh, the KSC landing convoy team will be available to assist Santa once the sleigh is safely on the ground.

The KSC landing convoy vehicles will be "on-call" beginning the afternoon of Dec. 24. The primary functions of the convoy team will be to provide immediate service to the sleigh after landing, assist in Santa's egress from the toy-laden vehicle, and prepare it for towing to the Sleigh Processing Facility (located adjacent to the Orbiter Processing Facility) for emergency repairs, if required.

A new state-of-the-art convoy command vehicle, commissioned in June 2002, will lead the convoy. The new vehicle is equipped to control critical communications between the Shuttle orbiter, the crew and the Launch Control Center, to monitor the health of the orbiter systems, and to direct convoy operations at the SLF.

A recent modification to the new command vehicle also permits specially trained KSC personnel to privately communicate with Santa via closed loop state-of-the-art circuits and guide his reindeer to a safe landing if the sleigh's navigational systems fail.

Denny Gagen, KSC's convoy commander reports, "I have no comment on whether the emergency simulations with Santa did or did not occur, but I can say with certainty that the Shuttle orbiter is not the only 'orbiter' with which the new convoy command vehicle can communicate."

According to inside sources, the convoy personnel on call will be prepared to don SCAPE suits, (Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble suits), for protection from the expected large amounts of ice and snow that frequently accumulate on high-flying sleighs.

Once Santa's egress procedures are complete, the Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV), also used by disembarking Shuttle crews, will be moved into position on the sleigh's port side. A KSC physician will be on stand-by to board the sleigh and conduct a physical examination, if required. (Typically, milk and cookies are all that is necessary during stops.) The CTV will allow Santa the privacy to leave his sleigh and change from his red, fur-lined flight suit into his work clothes. He can then perform any necessary mechanical repairs before returning to his scheduled deliveries.

In the event the emergency is not mechanical in nature, the SLF Landing Aids Control Building (LACB) is equipped with telephones, a clean-rag canister, water faucets and a hose, an eyewash rack, a snack bar, and bathrooms.

When asked to comment on this emergency contingency plan, Santa refused, citing a heavy workload this time of year. Queries forwarded to his Public Affairs Office went unanswered.

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