Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: What advertising mishap forced the U.S. military to begin 'tracking' Santa Claus in 1955?

What mishandled advertising campaign led to NORAD providing flight-tracking data on Santa Claus for the last 50 years?

Most geeks have at least a passing familiarity with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD -- and not just because it's the nerve center of air defense operations for the continental United States and Canada. NORAD's telegenic Cheyenne Mountain underground complex was the setting for both the seminal hacker flick WarGames and for Stargate Command in the various incarnations of the eponymous sci-fi TV franchise.

It's thus amusing to think that, in some parallel fictional universe, either General Jack O'Neill or the War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) supercomputer are busily preparing for one of NORAD's lesser known real-world duties: tracking the flight path Santa Claus. That's right, Jolly Old St. Nick has been one of the various bogeys on NORAD's radar since well before there was even a NORAD.

NORAD's predecessor, the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), actually began publicly tracking the flight path of Father Christmas in 1955, three years before NORAD was formed. The tradition was handed off to NORAD in 1958, and continues even to this day, with a website, Flickr album, YouTube channel, wiki guide, Twitter stream, and Facebook page all dedicated to disseminating NORAD's tracking data on Kris Kringle and his hypersonic flying sleigh.

Of course, the U.S. military never planned on being a public resource for Santa-centric geolocation. Uncle Sam was unexpectedly roped into the gig by an erroneous holiday promotion.

WHAT ADVERTISING MISHAP FORCED THE U.S. MILITARY TO BEGIN TRACKING SANTA CLAUS IN 1955?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

14 comments
BiggestDawg
BiggestDawg

On a new born baby girl and happy belated birthday

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

I would have acknowledged the well wishes sooner but I was busy with my own early gift -- a newborn daughter. Hope the New Year is as excellent for you all as this year has been for me.

jeanmrandall
jeanmrandall

Happy Birthday.....Merry Xmas......Happy New year......Happy Easter!

Robiisan
Robiisan

You have provided something that will make Christmas more special for friends and family who would ordinarily never visit a Tech Republic website. And you have given ME the opportunity to share a special Christmas gift, electronically, with many, so that they, too, can enjoy Geekend and Geek Trivia. Happy birthday (I gather that from the comments above) and may you always get SEPARATE Christmas and birthday gifts, and never feel "cheated" out of one or the other. Again, thank you!

pgit
pgit

Seems every "mistake" that isn't comes outta there. I think it has the second highest per capita spook population after Ogden, Utah.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

even Merrier! I've got absolutely no clue that it is in fact your birthday, but what the heck it's a 1/365 chance so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Many Harpo Returns and may there be amany more. Of course you realize I'm being shellfish here, I want lots more End of the Week Geek Trivia's. :^0 Col 0:-)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Many happy returns and hopes for another great year of trivia.

panelshop
panelshop

for not remembering Jay, but I believe today is your birthday. Happy, happy birthday!!! Cheers Geoff

panelshop
panelshop

Thanks for making the "end of week" trivia something to look forward to. Happy Christmas Jay, have a great New Years. The best of the season to all readers how ever you celebrate them! Cheers Geoff

panelshop
panelshop

Congratulations Jay on probably the best gift of all! Geoff

sheoguey
sheoguey

What a wonderful holiday gift... the next generation of geeks!