Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ultimate Offroad: Santa

If either you or your children occasionally watch the NASA channel (and who doesn't) you undoutedly have seen the giant electronic map, taking up one whole wall in the Mission Control room, which displays the earth, the Space Shuttle orbits and the current position of the Space Shuttle and Space Station at any given time. In short… a huge "Google Earth" trail map!

And you probably know that on Christmas and Thanksgiving the little symbol's representing the Space Shuttle and Station are substituted for icons of Santa's sleigh and a Turkey respectively. Radar and Satellite tracking data are fed into NASA computers and the exact positions of any satellite can be displayed to the second! Better than most of our GPS units we take along to track our rides.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually follow along the Shuttle's path over the earth? Or better yet – even be able to track and plot the track the "Old Guy" takes Christmas Eve? Is anyone tracking him? Does he show up on radar… or whatever? Do we still have any records of his flights?

Well, yes, Virginia… the answer is YES to all of those questions. [In fact, this is a post where I'd appreciate it if you would make an effort to forward this link to families you know who could use the information. Copy and paste this link into an email   --> <--   the post will be left here through christmas so you can link to it.]

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD. They have at their command all types of radar and other monitoring capabilities, that they don't talk about… much, which is more than adequate to enable the governments to keep the air lanes open and prevent collisions. In fact, they've done it for over 50 years believe it or not.

"Well then," you ask yourself, "wouldn't it be great to get that data and plot it on the map?" Well… yes it would! "And," you further pose to yourself, "wouldn't it be great if we could get Google Earth to fly us around one of his journeys to see what it would be like?"

Ah Hah! Got you there! It's already been done! Take a look at the "teaser graphic" accompaning this article. It's not just a photo, it's a video of last years "Santa Track"! Click on play and you can see the highlights of his journey in slow motion (so we can see it with our mortal eyes.)

Offroading Home has discovered a little known web site where the good folks at NORAD actually talk about their whole "Operation Santa Track" – even the WHY and the HOW. Well, you can visit it yourself if you don't believe me! [You unbelievers can click here to see the truth: NORAD Tracks Santa]

Perhaps it's the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of communistic countries, or perhaps is the new detante in the multi-government International Space Station. Whatever it is, they are spilling all the beans – jelly and otherwise. They even disclose all the methods they use to track him [How we do it].

This year they've given Offroading Home permission to publish the link to where YOU can follow NORADS track at home, right from your own computer in Google Earth: [Track Santa in Google Earth]

In fact this year NORAD has teamed with nearby Colorado Springs School District 11 to come up with games that you can play on their site while you wait for the big day. Each day is a new game that you must "find" in Santa's Village. [Santa's Village and games}

And it doesn't seem to stop there. Once you get them talking, they really talk! There is an entire Frequently Asked Questions page which answers about everything you can think of right down to technical data on the sleigh! The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is fully operational beginning at 2:30a.m. MST on December 24th. You can call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will be able to tell you Santa’s exact location!

And borderline on carrying it a bit too far – belive it or not, they even track the number of cookies the big guy gets on his journey! [Santa Snacks] — Good Grief!

Learn A Little More

Retired Colonel Harry Shoup
NORAD’s First Santa Tracker
September 29, 1917 - March 14, 2009

For a complete run-down on how the program began, in addition to an audio segment from an interview with Colonel Shoup, Santa Tracking founder, see the page: [Why we Track Santa]

For a complete run-down on whether or not Santa is "Real" – AND, actual audio clips from "Virginias Letter" along with the newspaper response see the page: [Is He REAL?]


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