Vol. 2, Issue 11, March 16, 2004
Bush Reconsiders Mars Plans with Discovery of Dihydrogen Monoxide
The White House is reconsidering its recently announced goal of establishing a base on Mars following startling discoveries by the Opportunity Mars rover.
"NASA scientists have announced that a harmful substance has been found in the Martian soil which could pose a grave danger to our astronauts," said Bush in a press conference this weekend. "It would be foolish to send our brave men and women millions of miles just to have them encounter serious risks when they arrive. We need to do some thinking here."
The substance in question is dihydrogen monoxide. It has not been detected directly, but NASA said they have determined that hematite found in the soil, small spherical mineral objects dubbed "blueberries" and heavy salt content of the area all point to the presence of the substance. Dihydrogen monoxide is fatal if inhaled.
Steve Squyres of Cornell University in New York, who leads the scientific investigation, affirmed the discovery.
"It changed the texture and the chemistry of the rocks," said a perplexed Squyres. "But that's exactly what we were looking for. I don't understand what the concern is."
Bush's expression was stern as he shook his head over the findings.
"Frankly, if this substance can change the chemistry of actual rocks in the ground, imagine what it could do to our astronauts," said the President. "It was really irresponsible of NASA to make finding this stuff the goal of an $800 million mission."
The president's advisers have since learned, however, that there already exists an extensive range of technologies designed to allow humans to work in an environment contaminated with dihydrogen monoxide, including special protective suits and breathing apparatuses. In addition, there are indications that some life forms are capable of thriving in such an environment.
"Well, the president will be very interested in learning whether these technologies are portable to Mars," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan later that day. "In particular he is looking into the feasibility of getting a specialized "Sub-Marine" vehicle to Mars, which he has been informed is capable of operating in dihydrogen monoxide."
NASA officials were not optimistic about the prospects of such a mission, however.
"Some days it is a challenge bridging the gap between the scientific community and policymakers," he acknowledged with a weary sigh. "I call those days 'weekdays.'"