"America Must Probe Uranus"; President Chokes Back
Laughter During Space Policy Speech
Satire by David Albrecht
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
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
Neither the Jeddak of Helium nor John Carter, Warlord of
Mars, were available for comment.