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Airmen bring space operations to a new generation

Lt. Col. Dan Jones, 612th Air and Space Operations Center Space Director, prepares to shoot-off a rocket during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden/Released).

Lt. Col. Dan Jones, 612th Air and Space Operations Center Space Director, prepares to shoot-off a rocket during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden/Released).

Maj. Daniel Salgado, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, instructs a 5th grade student on “how to launch a rocket” during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces... Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden/Released).

Maj. Daniel Salgado, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, instructs a 5th grade student on “how to launch a rocket” during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces... Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden/Released).

Maj. Andre Benitez, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, shoots off a rocket during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Lt. Col. Dan Jones/Released).

Maj. Andre Benitez, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, shoots off a rocket during a demonstration at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1. Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) gave 5th grade students a lesson on space operations (launch operations, weather support, launch control centers and the importance of launch observation and recovery) during their visit. (USAF photo by Lt. Col. Dan Jones/Released).

DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- "When I was going to school we had nine planets, but someone had something against Pluto and said 'he's not a planet, he's a dog," Lt. Col. Dan Jones, 612th Air and Space Operations Center Director of Space, said to a roomful of 5th grade students at Tanque Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., March 1.

Jones, along with three fellow Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) took time out of their day to bring space operations to a new generation.

The two-hour block of instruction included teaching students about the differences between a probe, which explores new worlds and galaxies, and satellites, which are objects placed into orbit for such things as communications, navigation, weather and research.

Jones then asked the students to answer questions on how space helps them in their daily lives, which many of the children were unable to answer... until he asked them what would happen if the cartoon network failed to work in their homes.

"Oh no...," gasped several members of the 5th grade class.

He was able to strike panic into their brains by threatening their beloved cartoons while simultaneously teaching them a valuable lesson about space.

"If you have satellite television, you use space," Jones said. "Some of you in this very room may even take us to the next step in science and space...you are all great children and the possibilities are endless."

Jones also went on to explain the importance of GPS systems and "emergency buttons" that people use when they're out away from civilization. Once hit, these "emergency buttons" shoot a message to satellites in space and allow search and rescue workers to pinpoint their exact location.

"Well, I was watching one of the shows on television and the guy who had one of these 'emergency buttons' hurt his ankle, fell down and broke the button," said one of the students.

Jones pointed out "that it was a good thing that the 'guy on T.V.' had a camera crew around to help him in that particular situation." He then challenged the students to see how many people they knew used satellite technology as their timekeeper versus wearing a watch.

Next, Jones brought his team of experts up to front of the classroom to talk to the students about all of the steps that go into launching rockets in preparation for the final lesson...the rocket launch.

Maj. Daniel Salgado, Maj. Andres Benitez and Senior Airman Ryan Watt, all from the 612th Air and Space Operations Center, spent the next hour talking to the students about launch vehicle assembly, weather support requirements, launch control centers, and the importance of the observation and recovery period.

After the block of instruction the students paired off into four teams and launched their very own rocket.

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