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Sun, Dec 24, 2006

Space Scientist Proves Santa Can Deliver

Precise Calculations Show Kris Kringle's Trip Is Possible

University of Calgary scientist Andrew Yau says Santa Claus CAN deliver gifts to billions of children in one night.

All it takes is an understanding of orbital mechanics, fast-working elvish helpers, multiple time zones and a little help from NASA's shuttle transport system. Oh... and a sleigh as long as two football fields with an orbital velocity of Mach 23!

Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council asked Yau to work out the details. You can read a summary on the organization's website (see below).

Yau told the Canadian Press, "It's about as believable a story as you can get, but it's still got holes."

Here's how it works:

The sleigh is boosted into low-earth orbit (just 185 miles or so) aboard the shuttle. The lack of air allows the reindeer to pull the sleigh to its max velocity of Mach 23.

At that speed Santa can orbit every 90 minutes from North to South pole while the Earth rotates beneath.

Santa on only delivers one half of the orbit because it's night on only half the Earth. Said Yau, "We wouldn't want Santa to show up in the middle of the day while the children are still up, would we?"

On every pass over the North Pole, Santa's elves reload the sleigh with gifts pre-positioned there aboard the shuttle.

Yau was even able to calculate the size of Santa's re-entry vehicle... ahem... sleigh. If each gift is 1" x 4" x 6" it works out to roughly 830,000 cubic feet of gifts for each of 16 orbits.

Yau says, "You want the sleigh to be as narrow in the front as possible, to reduce drag, just like a bobsled going down a hill."

Because Santa purportedly uses eight reindeer, the sled has to be at least 32 feet wide. Flight stability requirements dictate a height of 32 feet. To accommodate 830,000 cubic feet the sleigh would have to be over 250 yards long.

Getting the packages off the sleigh and under the trees is the real magic of Santa's annual mission.

"That's the tricky part," says Yau. He has hypothesized the old elf has a slingshot type apparatus. "But it's unknown to science," the researcher admits.

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.nserc.gc.ca

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