innovative new direction for U.S. space program
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 93 14:46:27 PDT
Subject: innovative new direction for U.S. space program
From: vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU!bostic (Keith Bostic)
Congress considers innovative new direction for U.S. space program
-- by Dave Barry [07/31/93]
In today's edition of The Science Nook we're going to
discuss some exciting developments in the field of putting
portholes in cows. But first we have a News Update concerning
Space Station Freedom.
As you may recall, Space Station Freedom was one of
several excellent science ideas that Ronald Reagan had back in the
1980s, when the federal government had big piles of spare money
lying around. The space station's scientific purpose was to
provide a place where astronauts with nicknames like "Hoot" and
"Skeezer" could float around and conduct vital experiments to
determine what happens when you expose plants and animals to zero gravity.
Actually, we already know what happens to them. They throw
up. Even the PLANTS throw up. But that is not the point. The point
is that Space Station Freedom, through a complex scientific
process that is not understood by ordinary civilians such as
yourself, dumps money into the districts and states of influential
members of Congress, thereby enabling them to claim that they have
created jobs, which is of course the fundamental purpose of the
This is why we still pay subsidies to beekeepers. This is
why we still have military bases whose primary purpose is to
prevent the British from capturing Pittsburgh. This is why, when
we build a major weapon, rather than build it all in one place, we
assemble it from tiny Chiclet-sized pieces, each one manufactured
in a key district or state, always including West Virginia, home
of Sen. Robert "I'm Not A Large Albino Ferret, But I Play One On
C-Span" Byrd (D-Pork).
So the members of Congress were all for building a major
space station, along the lines of the one featured in the movie
"2001: A Space Odyssey." (They rejected the option of simply
purchasing the station used in the movie, which was actually
filmed in outer space, on the grounds that it would not create
So far we've spent around $9 billion on Space Station
Freedom, and we've made tremendous progress by every conceivable
standard of measurement, except the standard of having a station
that we could put up in space. To do THAT, we'd have to spend a
LOT more money, something like $20 billion, not including the
outdoor space barbecue grill option.
Ordinarily, our elected congresshumans would think nothing
of spending another $20 billion, but recently they were shocked to
discover, during a routine audit, that a gigantic federal budget
deficit had somehow developed without anybody knowing about it or
being responsible for it or anything. So now they're cutting
spending like crazy. They even stopped funding the $11 billion
superconducting super collider, which was going to benefit science
by causing protons to whiz around in Texas until they smashed into
each other, thereby setting off a subatomic reaction that
physicists believe would create thousands of tiny jobs.
There was talk of cutting the space station, too.
Fortunately, the project was saved when President Clinton endorsed
a plan for a scaled-down version, sort of a Space Station Freedom
Lite, which will cost only another $10 billion (Take THAT, Mr.
Pesky Deficit!). Of course the size reduction will require certain
compromises: We'll have to use small astronauts with short
nicknames and no more than two pieces of carry-on luggage, and
they'll have to restrict their weightlessness experiments to very
tiny organisms, such as germs.
HOUSTON MISSION CONTROL: How're they doin', Bo?
ASTRONAUT (squinting into microscope): They're throwin'
So Space Station Freedom has been spared for now, but it
still has many critics who wish to kill it altogether. We cannot
allow this to happen if we are to remain a first-rate nation,
defined as "A nation that spends way more money than it has."
We must keep up the pressure on Congress to keep Space Station
Freedom alive. Even if it turns out to be too costly to launch
into actual orbit, we should go ahead and build it, to create
jobs. We could then put it in some area that could use a space
station, such as West Virginia.
Meanwhile, we should all be thinking about the scientific
implications of putting portholes in cows. This is going on at
Washington State University, according to a Seattle Times article
written by Bill Dietrich and sent to The Science Nook by many
alert readers. The article states that an agriculture professor
named Roger Calza has installed a six-inch wide tube in the side
of a cow so that he can study what happens to undergraduates when
they peer directly into a cow ("They're throwin' up, Houston."
No, that's not the reason. Prof. Calza installed the
porthole so that he can determine, for agricultural purposes,
exactly what goes on in the interior of a working cow's stomach.
It turns out that the scientific answer is: You don't want to
know. Here at The Science Nook we are very excited about this
discovery, and we think Congress should give Prof. Calza several
billion dollars so that he can create jobs by installing portholes
in other types of organisms, including cats, snakes, boats, etc.
Maybe we could even gain important scientific insights into the
legislative process by installing a porthole in the head of a
member of Congress. Speaking of space.
© 1993 Peter Langston