ATLANTA — A bright red glow moving across the night sky will allow NORAD and the Air Force to assist Santa Claus during his special delivery of gifts on Christmas Eve.
NORAD is marking their 65th year tracking St. Nicklaus across the western Hemisphere. Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature allowing satellites and radar to detect Santa, code name Big Red One.
The tiny sleigh is expected to arrive over the east coast of the United States on Thursday at 11:10 p.m. EST, NORAD officials announced. Located in Colorado Springs, the North American Aerospace Defense Command will follow the jolly elf’s travels using radar, satellites, and aircraft.
“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. “The same radars, satellites, and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”
NORAD Celebrating 65 Years of Tracking Santa
Aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above, astronauts will train high resolution cameras on Santa’s sleigh. Kate Rubins and Vic Glover will train 400 mm camera lens through the windows of the Cupola module to capture the holiday flight below.
NORAD’s multimedia website can allow children to follow Santa’s journey in real time. App stores also offer a special portable app NORAD Tracks Santa which allows users to download and track the holiday voyage.
Volunteers will be in place at NORAD operations center to answer children’s phone calls from across the globe. A special free number to call is 1-877-HI-NORAD, beginning at 6:00 a.m EST on Thursday.
Air Force officials will field questions in eight languages — English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.
NORAD’s 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.)