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Local Students Launch Into A Day Of Space Exploration

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Space Day returns to Riverside for a 14th year, offering local students the chance to experience the many wonders of space exploration and research in an educational setting.

RIVERSIDE – Nearly 1,600 Riverside elementary school students spent Friday flying an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter simulator, exploring the moon and experiencing new and different ways that science is part of our everyday world at the 14th annual Space Day, sponsored by Lockheed Martin.

With Earth Day coming up this Sunday, this year’s Space Day event at Riverside’s Jefferson Elementary School offered students the chance to experience science hands-on and featured many stations focused on ways they can protect the earth and our environment.

“Over the years, Space Day has become one of my favorite days as an educator because of the opportunity it provides our students to apply what they have been learning in the classroom,” said Maria Ortega, principal at Jefferson Elementary School. “Not only do students engage with real-life applications of math and science, but they get to meet face-to-face with the professionals who work in these fields every day.”

Close to sixty activity stations provided unique, first-hand learning opportunities for students from Jefferson, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools. Students took the controls of a model Lunar Rover and UFO, simulated soaring through the skies in an F-117 flight simulator, explored robotic technology and witnessed rocketry demonstrations.

Keynote Speaker Wally Funk, a top-ranked Mercury 13 astronaut candidate and female aviation pioneer, presented an informative and engaging presentation to students on her journey to becoming a nationally known pilot and her experience in the Women in Space program. Today, Funk is still at work to achieve her dream of going into space on the Virgin Galactic Spaceplane.

“I knew from the age of five that I wanted to fly, and I know there are students here today who are already being inspired to pursue their dreams to explore space, learn to fly or save the planet,” said Funk. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of an event that gets students fired up about their future.

Lockheed Martin knows that in order for our nation to continue to grow and progress in the fields of science, math, engineering and technology, it is imperative to motivate our future leaders, the children of today.  Space Day provides the catalyst for students to see first-hand the numerous possibilities available to them in the fields of math and science.

“We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the Riverside Unified School District and local schools to offer students this one-of-a-kind learning experience,” said Gary Cambre of Lockheed Martin. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s astronauts, engineers and scientists and we want to do everything we can to inspire them to achieve their goals.”

The first Riverside Space Day took place at Grant Elementary School in 1999 with 370 students and nine activity stations.  The program has since quadrupled in size to include nearly 1,600 students from three schools and almost 60 activity stations this year.

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