Military to track Santa, safely escort him over North America
By Jennifer Vollmer As Santa Claus and his reindeer gear up to deliver presents this holiday season, the North American Aero- space Defense Command (NORAD) is preparing to track St. Nick on his journey throughout the world.
For the 53rd year, NORAD will use information gathered from satellite, radar, high-tech Santa-Cams, and North American fighter pilots to track Santa’s progress from the North Pole, compile the information at the NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Command Center, and relay the results to children worldwide.
The NTS Command Center will be fully staffed beginning Dec. 24 at 2:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time and remain open for 24 hours. Santa trackers will provide minute-by-minute updates on NTS’s of- ficial website. Children are also welcome to call the NTS hotline to report any Santa sightings or request information about Santa’s whereabouts.
How NORAD tracks Santa From the beginning of Santa’s journey southward, NORAD officials have him in their sights. Using a series of radars and satellites, officials are able to detect the exact time Santa leaves the North Pole.
As soon as Santa enters NorthAmerica, he is greeted by two Canadian CF-18s. They escort him for the dura-
tion of his journey above Canada and then when Santa and his reindeer cross the border into the U.S., Ameri- can F-15 and F-16s take over. Both the Canadian and American pilots transmit the information about Santa’s whereabouts to the NTS Command Center.
High-tech Santa-Cams have also been installed in all major cities throughout the world to better monitor Santa’s progress. The cameras are equipped to snap photos of Santa and his reindeer. Many of the photos are uploaded to the NTS website, but several remain under wraps and are deemed “classified” because the photos are taken at angles that could compromise Santa’s pat- ented sled technology.
Why NORAD tracks Santa The NTS program began 53 years ago on Christmas Eve, 1955 in Colorado Springs, Colo. when U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, former director of opera- tions, Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD’s predecessor), received a phone from a child asking the whereabouts of Santa.
After investigating the call, military officials dis- covered that a local newspaper inadvertently printed the wrong telephone number in a Sears’ advertisement. The ad, prompting children to call the number to speak with Santa, actually listed the CONAD Commander-in-
Chief’s operation’s hotline number.
The Colonel received numerous calls that evening asking to speak with Santa. In an act of kindness, Col. Shoup reviewed the data he had on hand and gave the callers Santa’s location. The tradition was carried on annually, even after CONAD transitioned into NORAD in 1958.
Due to the advancement of Santa tracking technol- ogy and the internet, the NTS mission continues to grow in popularity. Last year, the Command Center received 95,000 phone calls from children inquiring about Santa’s location. The Web site registered 10.6 million hits from 212 different countries and territories around the globe.
Track Santa from home:
Website: www.noradsanta.org Phone: 1-877-Hi-NORAD Email: noradtrackssanta@ gmail.com
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December 18, 2008