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Summary of NORAD Tracks Santa

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NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Program
NORAD santa

NORAD Tracks Santa Emblem
Active 1955 - present
Type Public Service Program
Role Three (3) important roles: 1) Inform the world of Santa Claus' current location on Christmas Eve, 2) Provide information about NORAD, Santa Claus, and why NORAD tracks Santa Claus, with an on-line interactive Countdown Village to Christmas Eve, featuring holiday-themed entertainment and games during December of each year, and 3) Inspire children and the young at heart around the world to think about how space technology and exploration play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.
Size More than 1,200 volunteers
Part of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
Garrison/HQ (2006 - Present) Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado; (1955-2005) Cheyenne Mountain AFS (Air Force Station), Colorado;
Colors Blue, Turquoise, Yellow, and Silver
Anniversaries December 24, Christmas Eve


NORAD Tracks Santa is the oldest and most well known Santa Tracking service offered to the public during December of each year. This Santa Tracking service is provided under the auspices of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint organization of Canada and the United States. Every year on Christmas Eve, "NORAD Tracks Santa" is in the role of following Santa Claus, as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world. During December of each year the NORAD Tracks Santa program disseminates information about NORAD, Santa Claus, and why NORAD tracks Santa Claus, with an on-line Countdown Village to Christmas Eve, which some might consider a type of on-line "advent calendar", that features holiday-themed entertainment.

NTS Space Foundation Cert Imagine Logo

In December 2007, the Space Foundation recognized the NORAD Tracks Santa program as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category of the Space Foundation's Space Certification Program.

The Space Foundation has recognized the NORAD Tracks Santa program as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category of the Space Foundation's Space Certification Program. [1] [2].[1] [2] [3] The Space Foundation specifically cited NORAD and the NORAD Tracks Santa Program for their accomplishments as follows, "NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa - radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft. Not only do these systems utilize a variety of technologies developed for the space program, but the tradition of tracking Santa's progress itself inspires children around the world to think about how space technology and exploration play an increasingly important role in our daily lives." [3] [4]

The view of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program on Santa Claus is that "Based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, we believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world."[5] The audience for the NORAD Tracks Santa Program are those who believe in the spirit of the winter holiday season and that Santa Claus is alive and real in one's heart. A sentiment illustrated in the editorial "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" that appeared in the September 21, 1897 issue of the New York Sun. Both Virginia's letter to the New York Sun and the editorial reply have been featured on the NORAD Tracks Santa website from its earliest years.[6]

According to Gerry Bowler, a history professor at the University of Manitoba and the author of Santa Claus: A Biography, of The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, and webinar host at the University of Manitoba on Christmas and Santa Claus, the NORAD Tracks Santa program and the various Santa Tracking efforts are "one of the few modern additions to the centuries-old Santa Claus story that have stuck. . . NORAD (and others) . . ., take(s) an essential element of the Santa Claus story - his travels on Christmas Eve – and looks at it through a technological lens. It brought Santa into the 20th century." And into the 21st century as well. [7]

Santa Tracker Theme Music Link to full size video


Historical Overview of the NORAD Track Santa Program

NORAD Why We Track Santa

1955 Sears ad with the misprinted telephone number that led to the NORAD Tracks Santa Program

According to NORAD's official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the history of the Santa tracking effort is:[8]

On December 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a girl in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper (Note - The newspaper was The Gazette of Colorado Springs.[9]) – she wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.

The ad by a Colorado Springs-based Sears store said "Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number." However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.

2005 MSNBC Cosmic Log - Santa Tracking Season - Colonel(Retired) Shoup Interview of November 28, 2005 by Alan Boyle. [10] Link to full size video

On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the "Santa Colonel." Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night. (Note - Colonel(Retired) Harry Shoup, the first Santa Tracker, passed away on March 14, 2009, at the age of 91.[11] [12] [13] [14] [4])

Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.

Every Christmas Eve, thousands of volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages [Note - these languages include English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, with Brazilian Portuguese used in prior years] ), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.

From December 2009 onward, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube.tv. To follow NORAD Tracks Santa on any of these Web sites, type in @noradsanta into the search engine and start tracking.

NORAD Tracks Santa has become a magical and global phenomenon, delighting generations of families everywhere.

Now major media outlets as well as children call in to inquire on Santa's location. NORAD relies on volunteers to help make Santa tracking possible.[15] Many employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base spend part of their Christmas Eve with their families and friends at NORAD's Santa Tracking Operations Center, in order to answer phones and provide Santa updates to thousands of callers. All told, each volunteer handles about 40 telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than 200 countries and territories during a NORAD Tracks Santa season. Most of these contacts happen during the 25 hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 through 3 a.m. on Christmas that the operations center is up and running.[8][15]


Impact of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program

Thanks to the NORAD Tracks Santa program, children and the young at heart world-wide receive updates of Santa’s location on Christmas Eve that are accurate, timely, and prefaced by holiday-themed entertainment throughout December at the NORAD Tracks Santa website and thru Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TroopTube.tv.[16] Photo album information on the NORAD Tracks Santa program is available at its Flickr page directly [5] or thru the NORAD Tracks Santa program Facebook page's Flickr tab [6], or directly at its Picasa page [7].

The NORAD Tracks Santa program has the Space Foundation's "seal of approval" under their Space Certification Program as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category [8] [9].[1] [2] [3] NORAD and the NORAD Tracks Santa Program were cited specifically by the Space Foundation as follows, "NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa - radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft. Not only do these systems utilize a variety technology developed for the space program, but the tradition of tracking Santa's progress itself inspires children around the world to think about how space technology and exploration play an increasingly important role in our daily lives." [4] Also, according to Brian McClendon, Engineering Director for Google Earth and Google Maps in his December 2008 interview with the BBC News on NORAD Tracks Santa and Google, the NORAD Tracks Santa program teaches children and the young at heart important lessons on geography. [17]

Finally, according to Joe Suarez, Booz Allen Executive Advisor, Community Partnerships and Philanthropy, “NORAD Tracks Santa is more than just a holiday classic that brings joy to children. Through today’s fun and interactive Web site, children can learn about tracking technology and science concepts that can inspire them to dream higher than the stars for their own future. Studies show that U.S. colleges and universities are only graduating about 9,000 computer science students a year, and this program is one simple way to inspire more young people to answer the call for careers in technology fields.”[18] [19]

Consequently, the NORAD Tracks Santa program enables NORAD to positively reinforce its “brand recognition” world-wide as the protector and defender of North America, as it successfully accomplishes its daily and on-going missions of aerospace (which includes outer space) warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for North America. [20] [21]


Statistical Summary from 1996 to Present of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program

While statistics and type of media presence do not tell the entire story of the impact that the NORAD Tracks Santa program has had world-wide, this table provides a quick summary of the growth in the NORAD Tracks Santa program in serving children and the young at heart world-wide.

Statistical Summary from 1996 to Present of the NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Program
Year Nr of Volunteers at the NTS Op Ctr Nr of Telephone Calls Answered Nr of E-mail Messages Answered Nr of Languages at NTS Website Nr of NTS Website Hits Nr of NTS Website Visitors
1996 [22] Not Available 15,000 Pre-NTS Website Pre-NTS Website Pre-NTS Website Pre-NTS Website
1997 [23] [24] Not Available 17,000 Not Available 1 20 million Not Available
1998 [23] [25] [26] Not Available 25,000 Not Available 5 28 million 3 million
1999 [25] [27] 82 7,000 Not Available 6 52 million 10 million
2000 [28] [29] 100 Not Available Not Available 6 100 million Not Available
2001 [30] [31] 150 7,000 Not Available 6 289 million Not Available
2002 [32] 375 27,000 37,000 6 294.5 million Not Available
2003 [33] 400 49,229 60,000 6 577 million 9 million plus
2004 [34] 360 55,000 50,000 6 912 million Not Available
2005 [35] 550 52,000 103,156 6 907,958,865 Not Available
2006 [36] 800 85,000 96,000 6 1 billion (estimate) Not Available
2007 [37] 1,012 94,743 10,326 6 Not Available 10.6 million plus
2008 [38] 1,200 73,872 6,086 7 Not Available 15,828,663
2009 [39] 1,200 Plus 74,000 3,500 7 Not Available 13 million
2010 [40] 1,200 Plus 80,456 7,023 7 Not Available 15,476,016
2011 [41] [42] 1,200 Plus 102,000 7,721 8 Not Available 18.9 million

Legend: 1) NTS is NORAD Tracks Santa. 2) Op Ctr is Operations Center. 3) Nr is Number.


For an explanation of website hits and website visits, the Wikipedia article on web analytics is a good start point.


Statistical Summary from 2008 to Present of the NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Program
on Facebook and Twitter
Year as of End of December Nr of Facebook Fans Nr of Twitter Followers
2008 [43] Not Available less than 3,000
2009 [39] 410,700 27,440
2010 [40] 715,000 53,000
2011 [41] [42] 997,000 101,000

Legend: Nr is Number.


NORAD Tracks Santa Program Expansion by Type of Media

While type of media presence does not tell the entire story of the impact that the NORAD Tracks Santa program has had world-wide, this table provides a quick summary of the growth in media presence by the NORAD Tracks Santa program, from 1955 to the present, in serving children and the young at heart world-wide.


NORAD Tracks Santa Program Expansion by Type of Media
Type of Media Presence Year Presence Started
Telephone Hotline [8] 1955
(Toll Free in the USA and Canada from 2002 to Present) [44]
Newspaper, Radio, and Television [45] 1956
Website on the Internet [26] 1997
YouTube [46] 2007
iTunes [47] [48] 2008
Smartphone [47] 2008
Twitter [49] [50] 2008
Facebook [39] [14] [51] 2009
Flickr [39] [14] [51] 2009
Picasa [39] [14] [51] 2009
OnStar [52] 2009
Google+ [53] 2011


Awards and Recognition

Over the years, the NORAD Tracks Santa program has received many awards for website excellence and for its successful efforts during the winter holidays season to: 1) entertain and enlighten children and the young-at-heart to the iconic symbol of Santa and the spirit of the holiday season, and 2) increase public awareness in North America and world-wide of NORAD as a highly competent, capable, and technologically "leading-edge" organization that is successful in carrying out its North American missions of Aerospace Warning, Aerospace Control, and Maritime Warning. [54]

In 1999, the NORAD Tracks Santa website and program received more than 45 international Internet awards for website excellence. In addition to several American awards, such as the USA Today Hotsite award, ABC News.Com Site of the Week, and the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Bronze Anvil Certificate of Commendation in 1999 for best website, awards were received from Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan. The worldwide recognition included the Medaille d’Or Award from France and the Web Academy Award from Britain -- two of the Internet’s most highly prized awards. [27]

Starting with the 2007 NORAD Tracking Santa season, the NORAD Tracks Santa program received recognition from the Space Foundation with their "seal of approval" under their Space Certification Program as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category [10] [11] [12], for having increased interest in and excitement for space by children and the young at heart world-wide.[1] [2]

The NORAD Tracks Santa program won the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) 2009 Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for the 50th anniversary in 2008 of NORAD’s annual Tracking of Santa Claus (NORAD being the successor in 1958 to the U.S.-only CONAD annual Tracking of Santa Claus effort that started in 1955). The full category title of the PRSA 2009 Silver Anvil Award is “2009 Silver Anvil Award of Excellence Winner – Event and Observances – Seven or Fewer Days – Government” and the award title is “NORAD Tracks Santa: Keeping the Dream Alive.[55] The PRSA specifically cited NORAD for its use of the NORAD Tracks Santa program as an effective annual effort that “entertained and enlightened an entirely new generation to the iconic symbol of Santa and the spirit of the holiday season through a unique and collaborative public-private partnership” while it “reinforced its own brand recognition as protector/defender of North America.” [13] [55]


References

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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Certified Space Technology Reaches the North Pole, December 17, 2007" (in en). Space Foundation. http://www.spaceconnection.org/news/news-briefs/certified-space-technology-reaches-north-pole. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Certified Space Technology Reaches the North Pole, December 24, 2007, by Kendra S. Horn" (in en). Hawaii Reporter. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?141d187a-a5d0-47e0-b235-0609ae28f338. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "NORAD Tracks Santa - Citation - Space Certification Program as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category, December 2007" (in en). Space Foundation. http://www.spaceconnection.org/certified-products/norad-tracks-santa. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  5. "Follow Santa Claus, courtesy Google and NORAD, December 24, 2009" (in en). PhysOrg.com. http://www.physorg.com/news180877905.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Behind the scenes: NORAD's Santa tracker for Thur, Dec 21, 2009 By Daniel Terdiman, CNET" (in en). CNET. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-10418101-52.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  32. "NORAD begins Mission Santa, Nov 25, 2004, by Andrea Brown of The Gazette (Colorado Springs)" (in en). Globelink. http://www.globelinkflc.com/english/news/newsitems/ml.php. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  36. "NORAD Tracks Santa Web site going live, November 24, 2008, Major Stacia Reddish, NORAD Public Affairs" (in en). NORAD. http://www.norad.mil/News/2008/112508.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  39. 40.0 40.1 "NORAD Tracks Santa Program has record-breaking success in 2010, Jan 11, 2011 by NORAD Public Affairs" (in en). NORAD. http://www.norad.mil/News/2011/011111b.html. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
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  44. "NORAD Tracks Santa - Santa News Reports & Holiday Music Selections - 1964" (in en). NORAD. http://www.conelrad.com/norad_tracks_santa.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  45. "Tracking Santa: The Backstory, Dec 23, 2008, by Brian McClendon, Original Google Engineering Elf" (in en). Google. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/tracking-santa-backstory.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  47. "How NORAD hired Santa Claus as its PR manager, Dec 28, 2009 by Christian Zibreg" (in en). Geek.com. http://www.geek.com/articles/news/how-norad-hired-santa-clause-as-its-pr-manager-20091228/. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
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  49. "Santa Tracker 2008: Google & NORAD Team Up Again, Dec 2, 2008, Danny Sullivan" (in en). Search Engine Land. http://searchengineland.com/santa-tracker-2008-google-norad-team-up-again-15668. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  50. 51.0 51.1 51.2 "NORAD Tracks Santa, Dec 22, 2009 By Kyla Matton" (in en). examiner.com. http://www.examiner.com/x-29335-Montreal-Parenting--Education-Examiner~y2009m12d22-NORAD-Tracks-Santa. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  51. "OnStar Connects Children to Santa with the Push of a Button, December 16, 2009 by David Goodspeed" (in en). Gear Diary. http://www.geardiary.com/2009/12/16/onstar-connects-children-to-santa-with-the-push-of-a-button/#more-65073. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  52. "NORAD is ready to track Santa’s flight, Dec 1, 2011, NORAD Public Affairs" (in en). NORAD. http://www.norad.mil/News/2011/120111.html. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  53. "About NORAD by NORAD Public Affairs" (in en). NORAD. http://www.norad.mil/about/index.html. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
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