Wing-Clipped NASA to Launch Wal-Mart Budget Spacecraft

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, October 12, 2006 -- Facing what may be the worst fiscal shortfall in the space agency's history, a spokesman for NASA today announced a plan to resort to the extreme cost-saving measure of acquiring most future spacecraft from budget retailer Wal-Mart. An initial consignment of six "Econo-Capsules" purchased by NASA via the Wal-Mart e-commerce website at a cost of $29.95 each (plus shipping and handling), is slated for delivery this December.

Wal-Mart Econo-CapsuleWal-Mart Econo-Capsule

"Desperate times call for desperate measures," said a slightly disconsolate Erwin Grüber, a chief astrophysicist at NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "and sometimes absolutely loony ones. This current plan is one of those. We used to have something called dignity, here at NASA."

"The hell with it. I'm going to go work on the Europäische Raumprodukteinführung und Reentrymond Besuchen Trägerwurst instead," he added, referring to the moon launch vehicle currently under development by the European Union in stiff trans-Atlantic competition with NASA.

NASA has been plagued by budgetary difficulties for the past several years, resulting initially from extra research and development expenditures brought on by the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, and continuing as efforts to pinpoint and rectify the issues that led to that disaster have proved exceptionally intransigent.

Under the "Vision for Space Exploration, Because My Earth Ideas All Blow" initiative announced in 2005 by President Bush, NASA was intended to finish the international space station, Bush's sole multilateral policy initiative, by 2010, and to go on to land a live chicken on Mars by the year 2020.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a chicken," said NASA spokesman Gibberd Rauraugh, "although Bush specifically requested something from the poultry family. I think he has a bet going with Tom DeLay as to whether chickens can really fly on Mars."

NASA hopes the new, cheaper orbital, lunar and Mars space capsules purchased through the Wal-Mart chain will alleviate budgetary stresses, allowing the embattled agency to achieve its lofty goals within its current fiscal constraints, but some skeptics question the wisdom of relying on a low-market budget chain such as Wal-Mart for some of the most sophisticated technology known to mankind.

"Granted, the prices at Wal-Mart are difficult to beat, but there's a real price-quality tradeoff," said Lenny Packelfer, a purchasing agent with NASA. "I'm not sure I'd rely on a Wal-Mart toaster not to burn my toast. And we're talking about atmospheric reentry issues here."

The Wal-Mart Econo-Capsules, which are manufactured primarily in Indonesia by eleven and twelve-year-old boys and girls working in hot, poorly lit and unventilated caves, are, according to a Wal-Mart spokesperson, "High quality products that will guide you safely through at least five missions if properly used." Wal-Mart went on to advise savvy, budget-conscious holiday shoppers that Econo-Capsules "also make a great Christmas gift."

Wendel Shoemason, an investigative journalist who closely monitors and reports on NASA developments via his internet blog, took a closer look at the fine print. He found, by reading the consumer advisory label on the back of a standard Econo-Capsule, that "proper uses" of the capsules were defined by Wal-Mart as "dog food storage, Thought Ray shields, or novelty planters for plastic ferns".

"I wouldn't go as far as New Jersey in that thing, let alone Mars," said the New York-based reporter. "It's already broken, and all I did was look at it."

Under NASA's current plan, the agency will send an initial manned Wal-Mart Econo-Capsule into a geostationary orbit "a few yards from the International Space Station" for testing in early 2006. The space agency is currently involved in a public relations effort to lure volunteers for the first mission from among the one million strong army of Wal-Mart employees, or "associative disorderlies", as they are referred to by the company.

"It's a terrific chance for a low-paid worker at a mind-numbing dead-end job to try something really new and exciting," said the NASA spokesman. "And to sweeten the deal, we'll even throw in the health insurance. Let's see Wal-Mart try to beat that."

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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