COLORADO SPRINGS, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Hundreds of Peterson Air Force base personnel and volunteers are manning the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, to track Santa's progress after he got off to a smooth start early Thursday.
Santa Claus, known internationally as Papa Noel, Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas, started his global trek to deliver presents to millions of children in time for Christmas morning. For some 60 years, NORAD has used advanced technology to track the reindeer-powered delivery sleigh, led by the famed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The journey can be seen at NORADsanta.org.
In addition to manning the NORAD center, volunteers from the United States and Canada will field calls from an estimated 125,000 children around the world. Santa's progress can also be tracked on Facebook and Twitter. First lady Michelle Obama is expected to answer some of the calls from anxious children, forwarded to her on Christmas Eve.
Before he launched, Santa told his elves, "Proud of what you do. Today is the day we spread cheer across the globe."
From one side of the earth to the other, #Santa visits the U.S. station, McMurdo, which is located 850 miles north of the South Pole!— NORAD Santa (@NoradSanta) December 24, 2015
NORAD's tradition of tracking Santa began in 1955 when Sears Roebuck & Co. accidentally advertised the phone number for NORAD's predecessor agency, the Continental Air Defense Command, as a direct line to Santa. Since then, staff has worked to ensure Santa's whereabouts are continually monitored during his big day.
NORAD, a United States and Canadian partnership, monitors the skies and seas for threats to both nations. To track Santa, it uses Air Force Space Command-operated Defense Support Program satellites to track the heat signature from Rudolph's nose.
Santa's first stop was Novoye Chaplino, Russia, a population 419 village near the Bering Sea, located some 800 miles from the North Pole.