The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced today it is ready to track Santa Claus's coordinates as soon as the red-helmeted old man takes off from the North Pole. No, don't worry, Santa will not be riding an ICBM-powered sleigh. This is just an annual public relations program by NORAD.
On 24 December, you (or your kids) can go to the NORAD Tracks Santa web site to see Santa's location in real time. You can also call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723), send an email to email@example.com, or check Facebook,Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google Maps, and Google Earth (look for @noradsanta).
If you think this is all very silly, it's probably because you don't have a pre-teen bombarding (no pun intended) you with questions about Saint Nick. If you did, you'd thank NORAD for this initiative, which is actually really cute (check out their FAQ describing Santa's sleigh technical specs and whether fighter jets might intercept him) and began with an even cuterlittletale. In 1955, a Sears store in Colorado Springs ran newspaper ads telling children to call Santa on a special phone number. But the number had a typo. When the first kid phoned in on Christmas Eve, on the other end of the line was Colonel Harry Shoup at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), NORAD's predecessor, in Colorado Springs.
After more calls came in, Colonel Shoup realized one should tread lightly when it comes to children and their patron saint. So he dutifully ordered his operators to find Santa's exact location and reported it back to every child who called that night. Ah, the Christmas spirit!
Below, NORAD's video of Santa's 2008 journey, captured with its Santa cams.
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.