to senior officials in the Bush Administration, the President is planning a
reinvigorated space program, including the establishment of a permanent moon
base. In addition to mining hydrogen and other energy sources, the lunar
base would be used to prepare and launch a human mission to Mars.
The President's newly kindled interest in space comes on the heels of the successful landing of the spirit robot rover in early January.
Scientists are interested to know if Mars, thought to once have oceans and a thicker atmosphere, also had life, and if any of it still survives. One of the rover's main missions is to look for the telltale signs of extraterrestrial life on the now barren and frigid planet.
Presidential space science advisor, Derby Payin-Desque of the Free Enterprise Propulsion Laboratory explained, "It is thought that any life forms that have managed to survive the harsh place that Mars has become will be desperate to improve their standard of living by acquiring the kinds of things that Americans take for granted. It is also considered very likely that they'll work for even lower wages than Chinese prisoners." To increase the mission's chances of success, the solar powered rover has been programmed with Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.
One of the more important missions for the Mars rover is the continuing search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. A senior official in the newly formed Department of Martian Security said, "It's well known that Mars is a war-like planet and we know from satellite photos that Mars has canals. That indicates a sophisticated level of technological ability. We're worried about what they've got underground that we can't see." Colin Powell has offered to apply his x-ray vision to the problem and to prepare a presentation for the UN Security Council. Officials from the Department of Martian Security say that the rover will be on a red alert terrorist threat level at all times while on the red planet.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, speaking at a Friends of the Department of Homeland Security luncheon, recently said that the relative closeness of Mars to the earth in 2003 played a part in the decision to raise the Homeland threat level to orange in December. He added, "We have to look at every single detail. We can't afford to discard the slightest bit of information as insignificant." Picking a up napkin from the podium he said, "For instance, this looks like an ordinary cocktail napkin, but it could be a vital clue that could prevent a devastating Al Qaeda attack. You never know." Underscoring the seriousness of his point, he folded the napkin and carefully put it into the inside pocket of his jacket.
In the face of questions about how to pay for the President's ambitious space program, the Congress's General Accounting Office (GAO) has opened up an investigation into Halliburton's Mars contracts. Noting that the Spirit rover is solar powered, the GAO has raised questions about the price that Halliburton is charging to supply gasoline for the vehicle. Speaking for Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney said that, "Mars is a terribly difficult environment and it is very far away. It costs a lot of money just to think about shipping gasoline there."
The office of the Vice President denied rumors that one of the missions of Spirit's twin rover, Opportunity, is to locate an even more secure location for Dick Cheney to hide.
The Department of Petroleum Security is also interested in Earth's neighboring planet. "If Mars was once teeming with plant and animal life, there's a good chance there's oil there," said a high level official. "And with Iraqi oil more difficult to get at than we thought, and with the environmentalists blocking progress on ANWR, Martian oil is looking better than ever."
Elsewhere on the environmental issue, George Bush, while touring an Oregon sawdust factory, praised the latest photos of the Martian landscape for demonstrating the benefits of his "Healthy Forests Initiative." When asked later for clarification, Bush said that his words as reported were a "misquote of a misspeak," and what he meant to say was that the barren and lifeless Martian landscape is a clear example of environmental protection gone overboard. Once lush with water and life, "the ancient Martian forests sucked all the water out of the soil, leaving the lifeless rock that we see today."
The Department of Creation Science Security cautioned however that the science underlying the Mars missions is itself suspect and that even if life is found on Mars, it was put there by Satan to trick us.
In other space news, the US and Russia are said to be sharing a low level diplomatic tiff over US plans to fingerprint non-US astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Speaking at a press conference, a spokesman for the Department of Mothership Security said, "After the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia nearly a year ago, we are committed to do whatever we have to do to keep visitors to the International Space Station safe. Especially anything that doesn't involve dredging up the dirty laundry of various federal agencies." Also, the next space shuttle flight, after the Columbia crashed in Texas in February 2003, will include a weapons inspector to look for any of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction that might be hidden aboard the station.
Troy Skeels is an editor of Eat the State!, a feisty alternative publication from Seattle, Washington, where this article first appeared (www.eatthestate.org).
Other Articles by Troy Skeels