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Air Force News

NORAD tracking Santa Claus Christmas Eve

Released: Dec 24, 1997

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- The North American Aerospace Defense Command's annual Christmas tradition of tracking the progress of Santa Claus as he makes his way around the world on Christmas Eve has entered a fifth decade and will continue again this year. However, at Santa's personal request, NORAD will now post Santa tracking information on the Internet besides providing the traditional live updates from NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Command Center located here.

NORAD's tracking team will start issuing hourly reports at 4 p.m. MST Christmas Eve and will continue until 1 a.m. MST. Children and parents can receive a personal Santa update by calling: (719) 474-3980.

The official NORAD Tracks Santa web page will be located at the following address:

The web site is on standby mode until Christmas Eve when access becomes available to such features as digital animation of Santa's trip around the globe and "live" hourly audio reports on his progress.

Based on historical data, NORAD anticipates visual identification of Santa in North American airspace beginning at approximately 10 pm EST. Special digital cameras installed in the cockpits of Canadian CF-18s should capture the first images of Santa as he and his reindeer head into North America from the North Pole. The images will be instantly downloaded to the NORAD Tracks Santa web site.

This year's Santa tracking program is the 41st conducted by NORAD and the 43rd overall. NORAD's predecessor, Continental Air Defense Command, also located in Colorado Springs, started the tradition after a local store's advertisement for children to call Santa on a special hot line included a misprinted telephone number. Instead of Kris Kringle, the number put children through to the CONAD commander-in-chief's operations hot line. The director of operations, Col. Harry Shoup, thus received the first "Santa" call. Realizing what had happened, Shoup played along and his staff quickly jumped in to help handle the influx of calls. A picture of Santa and his reindeer was added to the map of North America and the tradition was born.

The many thousands of phone calls which come into Cheyenne Mountain are answered by a team of American and Canadian military and civilian volunteers who work throughout the Cheyenne Mountain complex with NORAD, U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command. More than 15,000 Santa calls were received last year.

Everyday missions performed at Cheyenne Mountain include the monitoring of North American aerospace for potential intruders -- including drug smugglers -- a worldwide watch for ballistic missile launches that could be aimed at North America, or Canadian, American and allied forces deployed overseas on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Cheyenne Mountain also monitors objects orbiting Earth and supports the space shuttle and MIR station missions.

NORAD officials have confirmed that North Pole toy production is in full swing, and Santa is currently preparing a list, checking it twice, in order to see who has been "naughty and nice."

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