Santa's global flight under way, 'All systems go': U.S. military official
By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Santa Claus has embarked on his annual Christmas Eve mission to deliver presents to millions of children after a smooth take-off from his North Pole base, at least according to U.S. military officials who track his reindeer-powered sleigh.
"All systems are go," U.S. Army Major Ruth Castro, spokeswoman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said on Wednesday.
Since the mid-1950s, NORAD and its predecessor agency have made a tradition of tracking the flight path of Santa, who is also known as Kris Kringle and St. Nicholas, among other monikers.
NORAD's Santa-tracking website, www.noradsanta.org, provides real-time animated updates of the worldwide trek.
Last year, the site had 20 million unique visitors, Castro said, adding that volunteers who staff a telephone hotline fielded some 117,000 calls from interested children and others.
The tradition started in 1955 when a local Sears Roebuck department store misprinted the phone number to the North Pole in a newspaper advertisement, according to NORAD's website.
The first call came from a little girl and went to U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, director of what was then known as the Continental Air Defense Command.
The colonel took the child's Christmas wish list, and assured her that Santa was on schedule. When more calls flooded into the command center, the military added a new task to its air defense mission. Continued...