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NASA Downsizing proposals (Tom Comeau @ Space Telescope Science Institute)
Space Telescope Science Institute
(topical, smirk)

[This is circulating at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which
operates the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA.]

(from an unknown source ...)  

House to Downsize Solar System
A Press Release

Bob Haberle  reporting.

WASHINGTON D.C. The House Appropriations subcommittee on NASA oversight, in
another effort to reduce the NASA budget, passed a resolution today to downsize
the solar system. According to an unnamed congressional staffer, House 
Republicans felt there has been "too much redundancy in the solar system" and 
that streamlining the 4.5 billion year old planetary system is long overdue. 
Such action would give NASA fewer places to go and this would allow the agency 
to carry out its space exploration goals within the funding profile that the 
House proposed earlier this summer.

"Look, we have three terrestrial planets" said Congressman Rip U. Apart (R,
Del.), "and only one of them really works!  So why not get rid of the other
two and clean up the neighborhood?"  Most subcommittee members felt that
while downsizing was definitely in the cards, eliminating both Mars and
Venus was going too far. "We have too many international commitments to
Mars." said Rush N. Hater (R, Calif.). "So I think we should keep Mars and
dump Venus.  Its too hot to live on, and liberal Democrats keep using it as
an example of what global warming can do. So from a political and
practical point of view, Venus has got to go."

Also at risk is the planet Mercury which lacks support because of its
small size and poor visibility from Earth. "Who needs it?" asked
Congressman Newt Onian (R, N.C.). "Have you ever seen it? I haven't. So
what good is  it? We just don't need useless planets. And speaking of
useless planets, what about the asteroids? If you've seen one, you've seen
them all. So I say we ought to get rid of the little boogers once and for

However, the downsizing recommendations do not stop with the terrestrial
planets.  The resolution also calls for a reduction in the  number of gas 
giants which contain most of the planetary mass in  the solar system. Most 
subcommittee members favor retaining Jupiter and Saturn, and eliminating 
Uranus and Neptune. "Jupiter  employs the most molecules, and Saturn has those 
pretty little rings everyone likes." said Rep. Con Mann (R, Fla.). "On the 
other hand, Uranus is a bore  and its rings are dirty. And Neptune, for God's 
sake, is just too far  away. So begone with those ugly bruisers."

But the influential Wright I.M. Fornow from South Carolina has publicly
announced he will fight to eliminate Saturn. Fornow is especially miffed by
NASA's success thus  far in keeping Cassini, the next mission to Saturn,
alive which he feels is waste of taxpayers money. "If there ain't no
Saturn, then there ain't no Cassini" he  exclaimed. The congressman also
expressed concern about sending back-to-back spacecraft bearing Italian
surnames to the outer planets (The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter
this December).

The subcommittee was unanimous in its views towards Pluto which they deemed 
a moral misfit. "Now here's a planet we can definitely do without." continued 
Fornow. "A few years ago, it was farthest from the sun.  Now its not.  Its 
just too confusing. And now they tell me its really two planets instead of one. 
What the hell is going on here?"

The resolution must now be presented to the entire House, where it is
expected to pass easily since only a minority of Representatives have
constituents on the affected planets. NASA Administrator Golden has vowed
to resist any further reductions to the solar system, saying that
"NASA has expended considerable effort to make the planets cheaper, faster,
and better. Much of this work would be wasted if the solar system were
downsized" stated Golden.

Critics say, however, that reducing the number of planets will not produce
the expected savings to taxpayers. Textbooks, they note, would have to be
revised to reflect the new arrangement, and facilities would need to be
constructed to remove the planets themselves. The resolution is also likely
to draw strong opposition from religious fundamentalists who have long
opposed the elimination of any of the biblical planets. Thus, the matter is
far from resolved.

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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