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US astronauts help track Santa's delivery route

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The Norad Tracks Santa Operation Centre on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado on December 24, 2019.

[WASHINGTON] For decades, the Canadian and American defence agency Norad has provided updates on Santa Claus's international gift delivery route, but this year, for the first time, US astronauts lent a hand.

"We have obtained visual confirmation that Santa is currently traveling south over India," Andrew Morgan said at 1700 GMT via a video link as he floated at zero-gravity in the International Space Station.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) said that the ISS was traveling at 27,000 kmh, 402km above Earth - providing "a great vantage point to spot Santa on his annual journey around the world."

"Norad appreciates the support of Colonel Morhan and the ISS team," it added.

The agency reported Santa had taken off from the North Pole at 0930 GMT.

Norad has been tracking Santa since 1955 when a girl accidentally dialed the misprinted phone number from a department store advertisement in the local newspaper, believing she was calling Santa.

The number rang into the Air Defense Command Operation Centre, where an officer was quick to realise the mistake and assured her he was Santa.

Each year since, Norad has reported Santa's location to millions across the globe, with noradsanta.org this year live-tracking his present-filled sleigh pulled by nine reindeer.

Today 1,500 volunteers help the military answer calls and emails from children, with the US president and first lady often taking a few calls.

The US Department of Agriculture said that Mr Claus and his reindeer had been granted a special movement permit to enter the country and were "fit for landing on rooftops."

AFP