NORAD's Santa tracking set to launch on Christmas Eve

Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:10pm EST
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By Lauren Keiper

(Reuters) - With Santa's departure from the North Pole imminent, preparations to track his global trek were underway on Friday at an aerospace command center in Colorado.

Children eager for Santa's take-off can count down the hours on the track Santa clock on the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Tracks Santa website.

Also on the website, kids can watch Santa prepare for his flight, check out the bustling shops in the North Pole and then watch online "Santa cams" as the big bearded guy in the red suit visits kids around the world.

Year-round, NORAD is tasked with protecting the skies of North America, monitoring man-made objects in space and detecting any potential attack by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles.

Tracking Santa seems to be a natural seasonal extension of NORAD's typical duties.

"His flight is something that we absolutely would track," said Lieutenant Commander Bill Lewis, a NORAD spokesman.

"Rudolph's nose helps us quite a bit with that. His nose puts off quite the heat signature," Lewis said.

The origins of tracking Santa date back to 1955, Lewis said, when a local ad to speak directly with Santa printed the wrong phone number -- instead directing children to a military defense operations center.   Continued...

<p>A man dressed like Santa Claus sits in his sleigh as he prepares for Christmas on the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, December 19, 2007. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel</p>