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Bush: "America Must Probe Uranus"; President Chokes Back Laughter During Space Policy Speech
January 16, 2004
Satire by David Albrecht

WASHINGTON, 16 January, 2004 — President George W. Bush called for a return to American manned space flight in a speech before NASA employees and members of Congress. He called for a permanent space base on the Moon and for an eventual manned flight to Mars.

But the president's goals did not end with two of Earth's closest neighbors. "We don't know where the journey will end. But we do know that it's time for human beings to enter the Solar System. To that end, I'm proposing a complete manned survey of the planets and their major satellites. This generation has a rendezvous with Pluto and a mission to Mercury. It's time to take a gander at Ganymede. Finally - and I can't stress this enough, America must probe Uranus."

The president then paused in his speech to choke back muffled laughter before spelling out some of the economic benefits of his ambitious proposal.

"We know that Io, one of Jupiter's moons, may contain vast quantities of hydrogen, which will fuel the next generation of American automobiles. We know that the Moon offers not only a low-gravity environment for interplanetary launches, but also an abundant supply of rocks. In fact the voyages of the Apollo Project really just scratched the surface of lunar mining. And Mercury - well, let's just say that this administration will not let America's thermometer manufacturers down at this critical moment in history."

Although President Bush spelled out an ambitious agenda in his presentation, his initial funding request was relatively small. He called for a 5% annual increase in NASA budgets, but also made it clear that much of the funding will come from existing programs. Programs possibly on the chopping block include American participation in the International Space Station and ground-based atmospheric studies. Also at risk is a planned series of environmental monitoring satellites which would provide continuous data on climate and temperature changes at the Earth's surface.

Cost may also be an issue. When first proposed in 1984, America's contribution to the ISS was estimated at $8 billion. Current appropriations have already reached $32 billion, and some in Congress are not eager to spend what may amount to trillions of dollars before all is said and done. "I've seen absolutely no evidence that we could possibly pay for what the president has proposed," said Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada). "It sounds like a colossal, open-ended pork banquet for defense and aerospace contractors more than a comprehensive scientific program."

However, President Bush responded to critics of his proposal by stressing the diplomatic benefits of such a plan, particularly in the case of a mission to Mars. "It's critical that we establish diplomatic relations with John Carter, Tardos Mors and the freedom-loving red people of Helium," he stated. "The barbaric Tharks and Warhoons must understand that their multi-armed, thoat-riding aggression against the other races of Mars will not stand."

Neither the Jeddak of Helium nor John Carter, Warlord of Mars, were available for comment.

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