Vol. 3, Issue 2, January 18, 2005
Fizzy Tea Hits the Spot

Huygens Wants His Probe Back

Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens is suing the European Space Agency (ESA) for the return of his probe, which he alleges was launched into space without his knowledge or consent.

"I've been looking for this thing for over seven years," said a visibly annoyed Huygens in a press conference at the Hague. "Now all of a sudden I hear on the news those felons at the ESA have gone and dropped it into the mud on Titan. There is such a thing as taking a joke too far."

The Huygens probe has made international headlines over the past week following its improbably successful descent to the surface of Saturn's largest moon. Data sent back by the probe show a frozen, orange world shrouded in a methane-rich haze with dark ice rocks dotting a riverbed-like surface with the consistency of wet sand. The pictures have astonished and amazed the scientific community, but Huygens has said his probe would have done "much more" if he had finished working on it.

"It only transmitted for an hour after landing because it was still using AAA Duracells. I hadn't finished installing the new plutonium power pack. Or the wheels, for that matter, or the cupholders. What were they thinking?"

ESA scientists sheepishly admitted they may have been "hasty" when they "borrowed" the unfinished probe from Huygens' laboratory while he was at a doctor's appointment and shipped it overnight via FedEx to be launched with the Cassini probe.

"We were under pressure to get something on board; it was our first major collaboration with NASA," mumbled ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. "How could I call the Americans and tell them someone spilled wine on our own Titan probe during the pre-launch celebration and ruined 10 years of work? Huygen's machine happened to be about the same size... We didn't think he'd miss it."

Huygens is suing for $500 million, which is the cost the ESA collected from its member countries for the probe, as well as an unspecified amount of punitive damages. He is also demanding that the Cassini spacecraft retrieve the probe and bring it back by no later than 2012.

"It's because I'm Dutch, that's why they did this," fumed Huygens. "I'll bet Newton and Descartes had something to do with this. Well, let me tell you, gentlemen: the pendulum is swinging the other way now, and the clock is ticking. I'll get justice one way or another."

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