Santa’s epic mission to deliver toys to good children around the world for Christmas 2013 is already underway, with an estimated 132 million Christian homes on his “nice” list that can expect a visit. Pulling off this feat, year after year, across millions of square miles in one 24-hour period, is a magical feat even NASA admires, and the space agency will once again be supporting Santa’s mission tonight by making their manpower and facilities available for him should he need them.
As of 8 p.m. EST tonight Santa was over Madrid, Spain, but is expected to make his journey across the Atlantic Ocean to North America in the coming hours. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the launch site for every human mission to the Moon and ever space shuttle launch, will be waiting for Claus, as will the astronauts onboard the International Space Station.
At KSC the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) will be available for Claus all night long, and the unmistakable 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) will be ready to conduct operations to restack a fresh supply of toys into Santa’s sleigh. The VAB is undergoing modifications to support processing of multiple vehicles, such as the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft—as well as Santa’s sleigh.
Lettuce and radishes will be available for Santa’s reindeer to eat, fresh from Kennedy’s Space Life Sciences Laboratory where they were grown under red and blue LED lighting in one of NASA’s Advanced AES Habitation Projects, which increases the food’s antioxidant properties.
Santa also has some new tools available to assist in his delivery run tonight with NASA’s TDRS-K and Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft—both of which launched earlier this year. With TDRS-K now in operation, Claus has uninterrupted communications services with his mission control center at the North Pole. Up-to-date imagery of the changes on the Earth provided by the Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft will help Santa pinpoint exactly where to touch down in areas of recent population growth.
Santa is also expected to visit the astronauts at the International Space Station tonight to wish the crew a Merry Christmas and congratulate them on a job well done regarding this week’s spacewalks to repair a malfunctioned cooling pump. Claus and the astronauts are also expected to discuss NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and plans for new vehicles. Santa is the foremost expert in flight, and his expertise will undoubtedly aid in development of the next generation of spacecraft.
NORAD, the joint United States and Canadian organization which provides aerospace warning and control over North America’s airspace, will be providing support to Santa tonight as well. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared heat signature similar to a small missile launch, and satellites such as GOES-15 will be used to focus on Rudolph’s heat signature to track Santa’s flight across North America. GPS satellites and other spacecraft are being utilized to help plot Santa’s course through weather and to help make the trip a little easier this year.
NORAD is also providing live tracking of Santa’s flight this year, and you can track Santa’s mission by clicking HERE.
“NORAD stands the watch protecting the skies of North America 365 days a year, but on Christmas Eve the children of the world look to NORAD and our trusted partners to make sure that Santa is able to complete his mission safely,” said Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. Jacoby, NORAD commander. “This is a duty to the children of the world, and a privilege we’ve enjoyed for 56 consecutive years.”