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Mars probe makes shocking discovery

By John Breneman

NASA officials today reported an astonishing breakthrough in the search for signs of life on Mars. The discovery of a previously unknown Wal-Mart on the Martian surface is being hailed as clear evidence that the mysterious red planet may harbor an advanced race of beings capable of obtaining duct tape for 99 cents.

However, scientists admit to being baffled by the unexpected finding made by the U.S. space rover Spirit.

"We thought we might find a trace of gray hematite, an iron oxide mineral that forms in environments where water is present. Water, of course, being necessary to support life," said Dr. Fred Houston. "Nobody dreamed we'd stumble across a commercial structure that suggests the presence of an intelligent life form with access to a galaxy of material goods at reasonable prices."

Several leading astro-economists theorize that other businesses may have once existed nearby but disappeared in the shadow of the dominant Wal-Mart. According to unconfirmed reports, the robotic probe may also have detected a fragment of fossilized styrofoam emblazoned with the words "Quarter-Pounder with Cheese."

A Wal-Mart jet propulsion specialist would "neither confirm nor deny" the presence of a superstore on Mars, but said the company makes no secret of its desire to cover two-thirds of the earth's surface with retail space.

Some NASA team members suspect Wal-Mart may ultimately be seeking to squeeze the space agency out of business by selling robotic space rovers for $19.95 instead of the NASA pricetag of $800 million.

January '04

Bush suffering from Venus envy?

By John Breneman

A White House speechwriter who helped President Bush craft his vision for rededicating America to space exploration said today he is ecstatic the president took his advice not to deliver the address wearing a NASA flightsuit and astronaut helmet.

Bush on Wednesday outlined a plan to build a permanent outpost on the lunar surface and to use it as a base for manned expeditions to Mars. The speech writer, who claims he also persuaded Bush not to joke that he is "itching to explore Uranus," offered some insight into what prompted the president's sudden interest in outer space.

On Tuesday, the president walked past a TV displaying images of the Mars space rover and asked, "What's that thing?" When an aide informed him of NASA's mission to explore Mars, Bush reportedly muttered "Cool."

Intrigued, the president stayed up late watching reruns of "Star Trek" and The Jetsons." The next morning he arrived at the Oval Office buzzing with ideas and telling Cabinet officials he was eager "to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before." When told that his dad proposed the same exact thing back in 1989 but gave up when it got too expensive, Bush squinted and replied, "Oh."

The president forged ahead with his politically courageous "pro-space" stance despite what he called "cry-baby talk" from critics who said he might want to first address the mounting federal deficit and domestic issues like health care.

In the speech he pledged $1 billion to NASA, along with an additional $200,000 if the space agency promised to hire 15 Mexican janitors by the year 2006. The president also named former astronaut John Glenn the nation's first "Space Czar." Bush said mankind is destined to explore space to help satisfy "the human thirst for knowledge," and for delicious Tang.

The president concluded, "We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit. And by the way, anyone who doesn't support my space plan is a friggin' terrorist."

January '04

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