Monday, December 24, 2007

NORAD set to track Santa; Tracking Keps Available

Santa's fans can track his journey around the world on Dec. 24 at North American Aerospace Defense Command's special Web site: The site also features the history of NORAD Tracks Santa program, has interactive games and more. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

Blog Note: Santa Claus has released his flight plan. Here are the "keps" for those who wish to track the reindeer. The flight begins at 2000 Z on 24 December, at the North Pole, proceeds over central Europe, and will reach the East coast of the USA at 0030 Z.

1 00001U 00001A 07358.83333333 .00000038 00000-0 00000-0 0 0007
2 00001 089.9500 233.3808 0012602 180.0000 270.0000 15.00000000020072

Members of North American Aerospace Defense Command are gearing up to track Santa Claus' travels on Christmas Eve, providing detailed information about his whereabouts on the command's Web site and through a toll-free telephone line.

Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, provided a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Santa-tracking mission.

He reported a "consistent phenomenon" the command has tracked for decades.

"Sometime around the 24th of December, this individual begins to take flight, and he makes a very rapid trip around the globe," he said.

When Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor, first took notice of this flight in the 1950s, "there was a great concern, because we didn't know if this was a threat to our country and to free nations around the world," General Renuart said. "What we found is, this gentleman brings good everywhere he goes."

NORAD's system to track this person has evolved over the years, refined through the use of radar systems, satellite sensors and communications and interactive information technologies, he said, "so we can precisely, at any time along his flight, identify his location, ensure he has the proper protection and ... he can complete his mission on time."

The NORAD elves are looking forward to tracking Santa again this year, General Renuart said. From 2 a.m. Mountain Time Dec. 24 through 2 a.m. Mountain Time Christmas Day, they'll track his progress, posting details on the command's Web site at

"At any time in this process, they can find out where Santa is and when he should be into their area," General Renuart said.

In addition, children can call the NORAD hotline at 877-HI-NORAD toll-free to check up on Santa. Translators will be on hand to report on his travels in six different languages, General Renuart said. They'll also remind children that Santa can't come to their houses if they're awake, he said.

"It's an amazing planning process Santa goes through to arrive in each part of the world after the children have gone to sleep to ensure that he can review whether they have been good or bad, naughty or nice, and reward them appropriately," General Renuart said. "So it's a mission we take very seriously, and we are looking forward to it."

The Santa-tracking mission dates back to 1955, after an ad in a local newspaper printed an incorrect number for Santa Claus that sent callers to the Continental Air Defense Command operations center. Its commander, Col. Harry Shoup, started the tradition of tracking Santa, a mission NORAD assumed in 1958.

Last year, the command's Santa-tracking Web site received more than 941 million page views from 210 countries and territories, NORAD officials reported. In addition, 756 volunteers answered more than 65,000 calls to the toll-free phone line.

While enjoying the levity of the mission, General Renuart turned serious to extend thoughts and prayers to young men and women deployed in harm's way around the world and to their families who will spend the holidays without their loved ones.

"This is a difficult time in our country's history as we continue to struggle against this rash of violent extremism around the world," he said. "We've got great members of our military who have given selflessly of themselves. But importantly, their families have given selflessly as well, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them."

"We wish them all the best in this holiday season," he said. "We want them to be safe, and we want them to return home safely just as soon as this mission allows."

Meanwhile, Renuart assured that NORAD and NORTHCOM people will continue carrying out their mission to ensure troops their families are protected and that, if disaster strikes in their communities, they are ready to respond.

"We take this job very seriously, and we are committed to make sure that when they arrive home safely, they come back to a safe home, as well," he said.