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Laura Mallonee: Wired Article
XKCD: “Six Words”
The Onion: “NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045”
NASA administrator Charles Bolden says that, with dedication and precise execution, the space agency might even be able to go beyond the year 2045.
WASHINGTON—In what is being described as the most ambitious mission ever undertaken in the space agency’s history, NASA officials announced at a press conference Tuesday their bold new plan to still exist by 2045.
NASA’s top directors, who presented a detailed, long-term timeline for the project, dubbed the Fortuna Program, told reporters that the plan would lay the groundwork for the space agency to reach far into the 2040s. Senior officials noted that their goal of keeping NASA’s facilities open for the next 30 years would test the very limits of their skill and ingenuity, explaining that the undertaking would likely surpass the Voyager missions and manned spaceflight in terms of technical difficulty.
“Though the scope of the Fortuna Program is far greater than anything we’ve ever attempted, I’m certain that, through the right combination of hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, NASA can make it all the way to 2045,” said the agency’s administrator, Charles Bolden, who emphasized that the plan would require cutting-edge innovation and spectacular administrative feats to arrive at the lofty objective. “With so many great minds devoted to this project, we have a chance at achieving something that once seemed like the stuff of fiction.”
“It may seem impossible now, but we hope to realize the vision of establishing a human presence in NASA deeper into the century than ever before imagined,” Bolden added.
When questioned about the plan’s viability, Bolden told reporters that while certain doubts remain, the project was nonetheless an absolutely crucial undertaking for NASA. Bolden further emphasized that the Fortuna Program’s goal was technically achievable on paper, and could feasibly be accomplished in a real-world scenario so long as everything “goes perfectly” for the space agency.
“The first critical step toward reaching our goal is to still be here by the year 2020,” said Bolden, adding that the plan allowed absolutely no room for error. “From there, we will move on to the next phase of the mission, which is to implement an intensive 10-year plan to remain operational. If we meet that goal in 2030, then there’s no reason to believe NASA won’t make it to 2045.”
“As long as each stage succeeds and we keep hitting our yearly milestones of being a functioning agency, we will eventually get there,” Bolden continued. “This mission, if successfully completed, has the potential to be one of mankind’s greatest achievements, greater even than the Hubble Telescope, the International Space Station, and putting a man on the moon.”
Bolden, who confirmed that all of the agency’s personnel and resources would be focused solely on the project, explained that the Fortuna Program represented the very future of NASA.
“We may not be around to reap the benefits of the Fortuna Program, but the next generation will be,” said Bolden, noting that the plan was rife with logistical challenges and unknowns that would have to be dealt with as they emerge. “Though the risks are great, we will continue to build upon what we’ve learned during our 56-year history to reach our objective at any cost.”
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for NASA,” Bolden added. “Whether we succeed or fail, I believe that the outcome of this mission will define the American space program for years to come.”
The Onion: “Completely Unsafe Design”
NASA scientists stress that the 6-year-old’s hand-drawn spacecraft would need a top-to-bottom redesign in order for it to be “even remotely close” to flight-ready.
MONROEVILLE, PA—Listing off a litany of structural and technological flaws, the nation’s leading aerospace engineers issued a stern warning Thursday that local 6-year-old Bradley Koenig’s design for a spaceship is entirely unsafe.
Experts from the fields of aerodynamics, jet propulsion, and control engineering unanimously confirmed that the orange-and-purple rocket ship, which Koenig drew during Mrs. Silvestri’s first-grade class, not only raises major safety concerns, but could compromise the lives of everyone on board were it to ever go to launch.
“I can’t even begin to enumerate all the safety protocols and fundamental principles of spaceflight that this particular vehicle violates,” said veteran NASA flight director Raymond Fletcher, who called the crayon-drawn spaceship the “most poorly conceived” and “shockingly hazardous” craft he had ever encountered. “The asymmetrical oval shape of the craft alone would likely cause it to break apart upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. That’s assuming the long row of randomly spaced circular windows are properly coated with a heat-resistant material to ensure they don’t disintegrate before reaching space in the first place.”
“Bradley’s mockup ignores even the most basic laws of thermodynamics,” Fletcher continued. “This ship is essentially just a death trap.”
Fletcher, who estimated that the spacecraft would cost in excess of $230 billion given the wide array of elaborate instruments affixed to the exterior, said that the vehicle’s protruding robot arm, which he noted with alarm was more than twice the length of the ship, certainly would not be deployed during takeoff and would not be holding a large sword, as depicted.
Engineers also said that the ship’s apparent lack of oxygen generators, high-temperature insulation tiles, vertical stabilizers, doors of any kind, and an air pressurization system would significantly endanger the lives of the two smiling stick-figure crew members—distinctly labeled with blue arrows and large capital lettering as Koenig and his best friend, Joshua.
“Bradley’s mockup ignores even the most basic laws of thermodynamics. This ship is essentially just a death trap.”
“First of all, the astronauts are not secured by any seat belts or straps—there aren’t even seats to begin with—meaning that they would be thrown about the cabin immediately upon liftoff,” said former space shuttle Endeavour commander Christopher Ferguson, who noted that, even if the seemingly rudimentary boosters could generate enough thrust to reach orbit, there appeared to be no coolant system to prevent the intense 5,000-degree temperatures of fuel burns from vaporizing the entire craft. “In addition, the large glass dome surrounding the cockpit would shatter almost instantly from the intense atmospheric pressure of reaching escape velocity. They won’t be playing on a basketball hoop on the flight deck when that happens, I assure you of that. They would be propelled out of the module and suffocate within seconds.”
“I would not even consider piloting such a craft without extensive safety modifications,” Ferguson added.
Ferguson also said that the two variously sized wings mounted to either side of the spacecraft would compromise its flight trajectory, sending it careening dramatically off course during launch. He further explained that the cockpit’s steering wheel would be virtually useless in such a situation.
“We must have run at least 200 3D computer simulations, and there is simply no scenario in which the periscope doesn’t at some point break off and rip an enormous hole in the command module,” said Paulo Lozano, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Space Propulsion Lab. “And unless Bradley has discovered a new form of liquid propellant I’m unaware of, it’s fairly obvious that with so many flames shooting from the engine, the fuel supply would be depleted within a matter of hours, leaving the craft immobilized and left to float off forever in the void of space.”
“And, needless to say, navigating any manned ship so close to a giant speeding asteroid is also unbelievably dangerous,” Lozano added.
Despite the clear and irrefutable problems in Koenig’s design, experts did admit that the ship’s giant laser cannon for shooting space monsters was the most awesome thing they had ever seen.
3A Ashley Wood: Dead Cosmonaut Golovorez
Kill Gods Thing 111111111
The Onion: “Mars Maven Begins Mission To Take Thousands Of High-Resolution Desktop Backgrounds”
WASHINGTON—Confirming that the probe successfully entered orbit around Mars late Sunday night, NASA officials reported today that the Maven spacecraft was now set to begin its mission of taking thousands of high-resolution computer backgrounds. “In its first year alone, the Maven probe will capture several hundred crisp desktop wallpapers of the Martian landscape in previously unattainable detail,” said NASA scientist Bruce Jakosky, noting that the space probe’s sophisticated instruments would ensure the backgrounds were in resolutions up to 1920×1200 and large enough to span two side-by-side monitors. “Maven has already taken preliminary images of the Bonneville crater, and we can confirm they look absolutely beautiful under a grid of desktop icons or protruding from the edges of a browser window.” According to Jakosky, after collecting enough computer backgrounds, researchers hoped to extend Maven’s mission and begin capturing images for a comprehensive Mars screensaver before the probe exhausts its fuel and crashes into the Martian surface.
The Onion: “NASA Administrator Resigns After Leak Of Offensive Anti-Moon Email”
Bolden reportedly made several comparisons between the moon and an empty parking lot and called the moon “one rung above space debris.”
HOUSTON—Saying he deeply regretted his “thoughtless and insensitive” comments, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced his resignation as head of the nation’s space agency Tuesday following the disclosure of an email in which he made a number of disparaging statements about the moon.
Bolden, a 35-year NASA veteran, had reportedly faced mounting pressure to step aside ever since an internal office email in which he characterized the moon as “useless” and “a barren eyesore” came to light several weeks ago.
“I am truly sorry for the inappropriate, untrue, and hurtful things I wrote about the moon,” Bolden said at a press conference from Johnson Space Center, adding that he was vacating his post immediately so that NASA could quickly begin the search for a leader who “better embodies the agency’s high standard of conduct.” “My words were poorly chosen and do not reflect my true feelings about the moon nor the beliefs of the dedicated men and women at NASA. The moon has been integral not just to our nation’s space program, but also to Earth itself, regulating tides and stabilizing the planet’s rotational axis for billions of years.”
“NASA deserves better than my indefensible remarks,” added Bolden. “And, most of all, so does the moon.”
In the email, sent to several top NASA officials, an exasperated Bolden appears to vent his frustrations about the agency’s historic involvement with the moon, going so far as to say that Earth’s lone natural satellite “all but ruins the night sky for me” and that every dollar spent on lunar exploration might as well have been “thrown straight in the trash.” Later in the email, Bolden seems to downplay the significance of the recent 45th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, wondering “how the hell Neil Armstrong just didn’t fall asleep walking around on that thing.”
Longtime colleagues of Bolden told reporters that while they respected him for his many contributions to the agency over the course of his career, they agreed that his remarks concerning the widely beloved celestial body, unmistakably sent from his email account and typed by his own hand, had destroyed his credibility.
“I wish I could understand what would possess someone so committed to space exploration to say such ugly things about the moon,” NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said, adding that he was shocked and appalled when he read Bolden’s wish that the moon would “just wane itself out of existence.” “But his comments were clearly inexcusable. Unfortunately, I think his resignation was the only way for NASA, and for Charles himself, to move forward.”
“This isn’t the Charles Bolden I know,” added Lightfoot. “At least the one I thought I knew.”
Several unnamed NASA sources, however, told reporters that Bolden’s moon email was indicative of a pattern of intolerance that spanned decades and that also included derogatory comments about astronomical phenomena such as pulsars, sunspots, and the spherical mass of comet-like objects beyond the outermost planets known as the Oort cloud.
Additionally, sources pointed to an event honoring the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, when a hot mic reportedly caught Bolden calling gas giant planets “big fucking nothings.”
While an interim NASA administrator is expected to be appointed within days, Bolden himself acknowledged that it would take time to find a successor capable of undoing the damage he had inflicted and even suggested that his attacks on the moon may in fact have irreparably tarnished the space agency’s legacy.
“The person who will assume my post will be forced to shoulder an immense burden of my own making,” Bolden said. “For the sake of America’s space program, I only hope he or she will have the commitment and wherewithal to slowly build back the trust that I violated with my destructive words about Earth’s moon. It is a special, important, and unique astronomical body, and NASA will always remain committed to it.”
At press time, NASA was launching a probe to deliver its formal apologies to the moon.
The Onion: “Modernized Space Camp Allows Kids To Simulate Frustration Over Lack Of Funding”
Space Camp attendees react to news that budget pressures have postponed their mission indefinitely.
HUNTSVILLE, AL—Aiming to provide attendees with an authentic glimpse into the nation’s space program, representatives for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center announced Thursday that its newly updated Space Camp will allow children to simulate the anger and mounting frustration experienced by NASA personnel over a continual lack of funding.
Camp organizers explained that the redesigned education program will offer kids the unique opportunity to contend with all of the budgetary restrictions and bureaucratic red tape impeding the progress of actual astronauts and researchers, allowing children from grades four to six to immerse themselves in a true-to-life NASA environment in which financial shortfalls and endless procedural delays plague them at every turn.
“At Space Camp, each attendee experiences the trials of real-life astronauts who simply are not provided the resources they need to explore outer space,” said director Deborah Barnhart, noting that campers get a firsthand look at what it’s like to pursue cutting-edge astronomical research on a budget that, when adjusted for inflation, is a mere fraction of what it was in the 1960s. “Our campers endure constant setbacks throughout their week here, from engaging in spaceflight training modules that can be shut down at a moment’s notice, to working tirelessly on a solar probe project only to be informed that an across-the-board spending freeze has led to the indefinite suspension of their work.”
“Kids will walk away from a week at Space Camp knowing exactly what it’s like to be an American astronaut,” she added.
Barnhart told reporters that the modernized camp offers attendees an array of hands-on activities that include designing next-generation spaceships, searching for virtual extrasolar planets, and building a robotic Mars rover, any one of which could be effectively derailed by an abrupt mandate that the research and development process be made more cost-effective.
Additionally, campers will reportedly be able to sigh and throw their hands up in exasperation within a replica of the actual mission control room at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center after learning that a reconnaissance mission to scan for the presence of life on Jupiter’s moon Europa has been scrapped just weeks prior to the intended launch date.
Program officials also highlighted their efforts to make the experience as realistically discouraging as possible by furloughing a significant number of campers immediately at the start of each weeklong session.
“We put camp attendees in the shoes of dedicated NASA scientists whose attempts to further scientific understanding through the analysis of asteroid composition are halted by one of our camp staffers playing the role of a U.S. senator targeting all ‘nonessential’ initiatives,” said counselor Tyler Campbell. “When they take their seats in our mock congressional chamber, campers will work together to deliver an impassioned yet ultimately futile request for continued support of NASA until they have no choice but to stand up and leave, having just witnessed their life’s work go up in smoke.”
“When you see the stunned expressions on these kids’ faces as they realize their goals and dreams are no longer attainable because of political pressures completely out of their control, that’s when you know they’ve gained a valuable understanding of our space program,” Campbell added.
Early participants in the new program have reportedly hailed the experience as “eye-opening,” with many describing their visceral disappointment watching satellite feeds of their Chinese and Russian Space Camp counterparts pursuing scientific endeavors that were eliminated in the U.S. years ago.
“I’ll never forget what it was like to go to Space Camp and repeatedly attempt to convince the budget committee of the importance of our solar wind study so they would cancel the other teams’ projects and not ours,” said 11-year-old camper Sara Andrews, who explained that she spent most of the week steadily reducing the scope of her simulated mission so that it would remain financially viable. “I’m just glad I wasn’t working on the asteroid flyby project that was ultimately deemed too cost-prohibitive and was contracted out to a private aeronautics firm. The kids on that team just had to sit around and do nothing for the rest of camp.”
“I can’t wait to work at NASA when I grow up so I can constantly stress over limited financial resources and have my scientific projects canceled for real,” she added. “That is, if NASA even still exists then.”