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NORAD's Santa-Tracker Preps For The Big Day

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, has been getting ready to track Santa’s travels Christmas Eve.

Lt. Marco Chouinard at the agency’s Santa-tracking headquarters in Colorado Springs says that the same tools used every day to identify missiles or space objects will be deployed by NORAD operators to follow Santa on his delivery route.

“They want an indication that Santa has taken off from the North Pole,” he says. “Then we transfer over tracking to the satellites.

“Everybody knows that Rudolph’s nose is red, but it gives out a lot of heat. It has an infrared signature, and with that, we’re able to track him with our satellites. And then we have our Santa-cams,” he continues. “We’re able to capture Santa going by with his sleigh and his reindeers. The other thing we have is jet fighters. We have some NORAD fighter pilots who’ll be flying F-15s, 16s or 22s, and they’ll experience the thrill of flying with Santa and all his famous reindeers.

Volunteers in Colorado will take phone calls to keep people updated, but Chouinard says callers won’t talk directly to Santa.

“No. Santa is not there, ‘cause he’ll be busy delivering presents across the world,” he says.

Observers can also check NORAD’s Facebookpage or the web to observe the preparation and then progress on the delivery route. Chouinard also has a tip for anyone expecting a visit from Santa.

“What we tell the children that’s really, really important is that they have to be in bed by the time he gets there,” he says. “Because if they’re not in bed, then he’s gonna fly over to the next house and then he has to come back and that’s going to slow him down a little bit.”

Chouinard also says that besides cookies and milk for Santa, it’s a good idea to leave carrots for the reindeer. This advice comes from the 60 years NORAD’s operated the Santa tracker.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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