According to North American Aerospace Defense Command, Santa is alive and well and rocketing around the globe in an airborne sleigh.
If any organization is qualified to confirm the big man’s existence, it’s NORAD. On an average day, the military defense agency uses a network of satellites, ground- and air-based radar and fighter jets to “detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any air-breathing threat to North America,” according to their website.
There’s not much that goes on in the sky and seas of Canada and the U.S. they don’t see, and Santa’s hectic travel habits are evidently no exception.
For Christmas Eve, Santa gets a free pass to deliver his load of gifts, but that doesn’t mean NORAD isn’t watching his every move.
For more than 50 years, NORAD has kept an eye on the man in red, broadcasting his progress to eager children across the country.
“Each and every day throughout the year, all of us here at NORAD work diligently to defend and protect our nations,” said NORAD Commander General Charles Jacoby in a statement. “It is an honor for us to take one day each year to expand our missions to share goodwill and holiday spirit across the globe through the NORAD Tracks Santa program.”
The program started in 1955 with a gaffe made by a Sears Roebuck & Co. copy boy. The Colorado Springs store printed an advertisement with a jolly Santa and word bubble “Hey Kiddies! … call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time of the day or night.”
Kids were supposed to be directed to associates at the local toy department, but instead the phone number took callers to the Continental Air Defense Command hot-line. The director of operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, rolled with the flood of calls, telling his men to check the radar for sightings of Santa.
The tradition has lasted ever since, even adopted by Canada when CONAD became NORAD in 1958.
NORAD prides itself on keeping up with the changing technology and demands of an advancing world. Santa is followed with the same technological fervor.
Starting this morning, radar technicians will watch a network of 47 installations set up along the northern border of North America for any sign of sleighs flying down from the pole.
The same geo-synchronous satellites that spot drug-running speed boats off the U.S. coast are used to hone in on the heat signature of Rudolph’s bright red nose.
The Santa tracking system has come a long way since Shoup first picked up his phone back in 1955. Now with high-speed Internet, kids can get an even better idea of when their gifts might arrive.
As always, kids can call 1 (877) 446-6723 for an official Santa phone update. His progress can also be watched on line in real time on Cesium and Bing Maps.
For more information and to watch various “Santa Cams,” visit www.noradsanta.org.