The North American Aerospace Defense Command is about to embark on its most important mission–tracking Santa Claus on his flight around the world. On Saturday, NORAD launched its annual Santa Tracker with a revamped website, social media channels, “Santa Cam” streaming video, and a call center that will be operating around the clock on Christmas Eve.
“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,” said General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, noting that they are not holding back on the technology: “The same radars, satellites, and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to protect Canada and the United States.”
Now in its 63rd iteration, NORAD’s Santa tracking began in 1955–not as part of a government elf-stalking initiative, but when a local advertisement urged children to call Santa direct. One little child misdialed the number, and instead of reaching Santa, he reached the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.
Keeping in the Christmas spirit, the crew commander ran with it and the Santa Tracker was born. The tradition carried over to NORAD, which is now celebrating its 60th anniversary of the festive fun. This year, more than 1,400 volunteers are expected to join NORAD on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to help track Santa’s journey while monitoring the skies for jolly old elf invasions.