The warmth of a bright red glow traveling across the evening sky will allow the U.S. and Canadian Air Force and NORAD to assist Santa Claus with his special delivery of gifts on Christmas Eve.
NORAD is marking their 64th year tracking St. Nicholas across most of the western hemisphere. Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature which can allow satellites and radar to detect Santa — code name Big Red One.
The tiny sleigh filled with gifts is expected to arrive over the east coast of the United States on Tuesday at about 11:20 p.m. EST, as he continues his delivery flight, NORAD officials said. Located in Colorado Springs, NORAD will follow the jolly elf’s travels using radar, satellites, and jet fighters.
“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, said on Monday. “The same radars, satellites, and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”
NORAD’s upgraded multimedia website will allow children to follow Santa’s journey in real time, while listening to holiday music or viewing special videos. App stores offer a special portable technology app NORAD Tracks Santa which will allow users to download and track the holiday voyage.
Volunteers will support the NORAD operations center to answer children’s phone calls from across the globe at 1-877-HI-NORAD, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Air Force officials will field questions in eight languages — English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.
The start of NORAD’s 64-year association with Santa began in 1955. NORAD’s public affairs describes how this holiday spirit took flight.
“A local newspaper advertisement informed children they could call Santa directly – only the contact number in the advertisement was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty, U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.”
“Col. Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made, and assured the child he was Santa. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls. Thus, a tradition was born, and continued when NORAD was formed in 1958.”
NORAD officials remind children to fall asleep early on Christmas Eve to ensure a speedy trip by Santa. “We love the opportunity this time of year to be able to say to everyone, ‘Sleep tight. We have the watch’.”
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)