‘Twas Christmas eve 1955 when a misprinted Sears Roebuck & Co. newspaper ad directed kids to a top secret Soviet alert hotline instead of Santa’s direct dial. Wrong red phone! On the receiving end, an Air Force colonel played along and a team of Cold War-era serviceman became North Pole elves. And that’s how the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) eventually became the Santa tracking agency.
NORAD is a bi-national U.S. and Canadian organization with the mission of aerospace warning and control in the defense of North America. But its most famous and favorite mission is watching the winter skies for the “big red one.” “Guarding What You Value Most: North American Aerospace Defense Command Celebrating 50 Years,” available thru GPO in hardcover and eBook editions, touches upon how NORAD triangulates Kris Kringle’s course. The publication proudly states that “using the same technology used to perform their day-to-day mission— satellites, high-powered radars and jet fighters— NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.”
That sleigh of different high-tech systems is used to read Rudolph’s infrared nose signature, capture high-speed video around the globe, and provide Santa and his reindeer with a NORAD fighter pilot escort. Fun fact to impress people at your holiday party: satellites and radar once clocked Santa’s flying delivery cart at 100 times faster than the Japanese bullet train.
Santa positioning updates were originally delivered over the radio and through the Santa Tracking hotline. In 1997, the operation joined the worldwide interwebs. A few years ago, NORAD teamed up with tech companies to release a set of free apps. If you download the tracking app, that ding from your phone could be a radar ping showing the globetrotting sleigh’s whereabouts.
Want to track jolly St. Nick and his sleigh-pullers on Christmas Eve? Visit NORAD’s multilingual Santa site. It’s soundtracked with some pretty groovy holiday music, too. And while clicking around, do visit GPO’s bookstore. There’s a NORAD history publication there waiting for you. Unlike Santa, it requires no high-tech tracking.
How do I obtain Guarding What You Value Most: North American Aerospace Defense Command Celebrating 50 Years?
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About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.