The Christopher Nolan blockbuster Interstellar hit theaters in time for the holidays, and although the post-apocalyptic space journey flick is mostly concerned with actor Matthew McConaughey, it does feature Colorado in a very supporting role. Playing a corn farmer/engineer, McConaughey eventually journeys across the plains to NORAD -- the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, where he meets a secret group of former NASA scientists trying to save humanity.
Anyway, NORAD's future looks hero-worthy, but the super-secret station, which used to be housed under Cheyenne Mountain, has an interesting past, as well, especially when it comes to heroes in funny suits.
See also: Santa and NORAD: The unholy alliance
As it has been doing for nearly six decades, NORAD will track Santa Claus again this year, providing lots of media photo-ops. It's a tired but tried tradition that dates back to 1955. That's when "some waif in Colorado Springs dialed a wrong number -- misprinted in a local newspaper ad -- and ended up talking to an officer at NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center," we reported in 2008.
"The kid demanded to know where Santa was. The officer improvised. When NORAD opened in 1958, some PR genius figured it was worth carrying on the Santa surveillance for all the widdle tykes out there, on both sides of the Iron Curtain."
This year, media members will have the chance to interview NORAD Commander Admiral Bill Gortnery as well as five other members of his chain of command, who will be actively tracking Santa Claus on December 24.
There's also a very detailed website where the public can learn about the history of NORAD and Santa-tracking, play games and buy gifts like the official NORAD Tracks Santa T-shirt, which sells for just $16.95.
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