It’s Christmas Eve in the United States, but Santa Claus has already unloaded presents in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.
In its 61st year, the Santa Tracker comes courtesy of NORAD, short for North American Aerospace Defense Command. You can watch Santa travel the globe with Rudolph leading the pack on NORAD’s website. Santa also has a warehouse that is accepting calls and emails.
So why is a organization in charge of defending the US from missile attacks tracking Santa? Here’s what you need to know.
1. NORAD started Santa Tracker After a Little Girl Called a Top Secret Phone Number
NORAD’s Santa Tracker had its beginnings in a local SEARS Roebuck & Co.’s ad which contained the top secret number to the predecessor to NORAD, the Continental Air Defense Command.
“When that phone went off, it was like ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’,” said Captain Jeff Davis, the former Director of Public Affairs at NORAD.
Instead of Santa, the little girl spoke to Director of Operations Colonel Harry Shoup , who told her he could help her locate Santa. The Colonel instructed his staff to help pinpoint Santa’s location for similar calls that Christmas Eve of 1955. Three years later CONAD became North American air defense command, but the organization has kept its Santa tracking tradition.
2. Rudolph’s Nose Mimics the Heat Signature of a Missile Launch
Tracking Santa is serious business, enough to warrant the use of anti-missile technology. The radar system used to track Santa and his reindeer Rudolph is known as the North Warning System, and has 47 installations in Canada’s North and Alaska. Davis said the satellites NORAD uses to detect the flash generated from missile launches can also track Santa.
“NORAD tracks Santa the same way we track any other threat the other 364 days of the year,” said Davis.
NORAD was also tasked with tracking maritime threats when United States renewed its agreement with Canada in 2006. The organization trains civil authorities in “military response capability” as a worst case scenario. The organization’s motto is “We Have the Watch”.
2. Google Launched its Own Santa Tracker After a 5-Year Partnership with NORAD
Google has worked with NORAD on its Santa Run since 2007 when it became an official NOARD Tracks Santa partner. However, five years later the search giant decided to launch its own Santa tracker. NORAD partnered with Microsoft whose Internet Explorer team updated NORAD’s Santa Tracker page in 2013 with a countdown to takeoff as well as links to games and movies.
NORAD also has an app that shows Santa’s journey in 3D, but the results have been less than magical. The NORAD Santa Tracker app for Android doesn’t appear to work, and only has 2 out of 5 stars in the Play Store. Google has its own Santa tracker app, which is similar to the Desktop version with a 2D map and games.
Interestingly enough, NORAD notes on its mobile app that Santa usually arrives between 9pm and midnight. Google, on the other hand, estimates an arrival time of 2:22 a.m. Christmas day from my home in California. The discrepancy may be due to time-space fluctuations, but more on that later!
3. NORAD Santa Tracking Operation Claims to Run on ‘Minimal Government Funds’
NORAD has its donors to thank for displaying Santa’s flight across the globe every year. The NTS Program ha been funded through a Corporate Team, which includes major tech companies like Adobe, HP and Microsoft. NORAD and the US Northern Command Public Affairs Office manage the program out of the Peterson Air Force Base in Coloardo Springs, Colorado.
Every year, the NORAD also recruits volunteers to field calls to Santa out of the Air Force base. In 2015, 1,500 volunteers answered nearly 141,000 phone calls, nearly 100 calls per volunteer, according to Colorado. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Noel.
The ‘About Team’ page on its Santa Tracker app also notes, “While NORAD has the history and the necessary technology to track Santa, the NTS program spends only minimal government funds.”
4. Jet Fighters Escort Santa Once He Enters Canada and the United States
Santa’s sleigh and reindeer pack may appear old fashioned, but his entrance to the North America is anything but. Fighter jets have accompanied St. Nick when he entered Canada and the United States. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots would take off from Newfoundland to greet Santa.
The jets are actually part of a program called Operation Noble Eagle, which started after the September 11, 2001, according to The Verge. The jets are tasked with approaching hijacked planes or those that aren’t supposed to be in Washington DC airspace.
5. Santa Lives in a Different Time Paradigm According to NORAD Experts
How does one man deliver billions of presents in the space of a day? NORAD experts attribute Santa’s gift-delivering abilities to a quirk of time. Santa experiences time differently than the rest of us because he lives in his own time-space continuum, according to a page on the Santa Tracker mobile app:
His trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading joy to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.