Once again, as it does every year around this time, North American Aerospace Defense Command has begun scanning the northern skies with its early-warning radars, satellites and other sensors for signs that Santa Claus has loaded up his sleigh and set out for his Christmas Eve rounds.

The infrared sensors aboard the Defense Support Program satellites can be expected to spot Rudolph’s glowing nose (but would SBIRS?) as he and the rest of the reindeer team break through the polar cloud cover, pulling behind them Santa’s sleigh full of goodies. Here’s hoping the following will be among the items on board:

– For former U.S. Air Force Undersecretary Peter B. Teets: assured access to space and a peaceful retirement.

– For Mark Albrecht, Jim Maser and Jean-Yves Le Gall, who respectively run International Launch Services, Sea Launch and Arianespace: peace on Earth, good will toward each other.

– For Gen. Lance Lord, the commander of Air Force Space Command who plans to retire in April, a legacy that does not involve the phrase “get over it.”

– For NASA Administrator Mike Griffin: not the Moon; just the machinery to get there.

– For European Space Agency Director-General Jean Jacques Dordain: relief from the programmatic tyranny of geographic return.

– For Air Force Brig. Gen. John “Tom” Sheridan, director of the Space Radar Program Office: a program to run in 2006.

– For Alcatel Alenia Space President Pascale Sourisse: a pair of water wings for launch celebrations.

– For the Space News editorial staff: a sense of decorum.

And for all: a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.