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
" 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
"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
" 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?
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 all.
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
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.
"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
has expended considerable effort to make the planets cheaper, faster, and
better. Much of this work would be wasted if the solar system were
" 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.