Not even COVID can stop Santa as he starts his annual Christmas voyage

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Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado: Santa is on his way and not even a second Christmas with COVID-19 will stop him.

That’s the word from the joint US-Canadian military operation that for 66 years has been tracking Santa on his global mission. Military personnel at the base on Friday night reported that his sleigh had been stuffed and was ready for flight.

This was the scene at the North Pole shortly before takeoff.

In what’s become its own wildly popular tradition, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defence Command provides real-time updates on Santa’s progress December 24. NORAD’s Santa Tracker lets families watch Father Christmas in 3D as he transits the South Pacific and Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and, finally, the Americas.

From deep inside NORAD headquarters, dozens of volunteers field an unrelenting wave of phone calls. They and other volunteers working off site because of coronavirus distancing protocols will answer such questions as “When will he come to my house?” and “What kind of cookies does he like?”

This photo provided by the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) shows the Santa being tracked.Credit:AP

Even before Friday’s takeoff, the NORAD webpage had been visited more than 3 million times, said program manager Preston Schlachter.

“Every household, every country is having to deal with the impact of this pandemic. Santa Claus is an icon and he is a source of joy for a lot of people,” he said.

For those worried about Santa’s safety – or their own – the bearded man will likely be wearing a mask at each stop and, of course, he always wears gloves anyway, Schlachter noted.

For the technically inclined, NORAD’s website offers more data on the voyage, including weight of gifts at takeoff (60,000 tons) and sleigh propulsion (nine RP or reindeer power).

Like any good Christmas tale, the NORAD’s origin has been told for generations.

Defence personnel track Santa’s journey.Credit:AP

In 1955, Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup – the on-duty commander one night at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defence Command – answered a call from a child who had dialled a number that was misprinted in an ad in a newspaper. She thought she was calling Santa.

Shoup at first thought it was a prank, but then realised the call was both innocent and genuine. He told the child he was Santa.

NORAD’s mission now is to watch the skies above North America for any potential threats. Come early Christmas Eve, the Santa operation begins when a cluster of radar stations in northern Canada and Alaska pick up an infrared signature emanating from Rudolph’s nose. NORAD’s geostationary satellites above the Earth monitor the journey.

It’s all shown on large, unclassified display screens in a festively decorated command post at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. Masked volunteers sit at tables equipped with telephones, garland, miniature Christmas trees, plenty of caffeine-laden candy and coffee – and hand sanitiser.

“We Have the Watch” is NORAD’s military-mission motto.

And when it comes to Santa, NORAD adds: “Santa calls the shots. We just track him.”

To follow Santa’s progress across the globe, see NORAD’s Santa Tracker or follow him on Twitter at @NoradSanta.


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