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Ground Control to Major George...

Dead Rover, Dead Rover

by DAVE LINDORFF

The most wilfully ignorant and unscientifically minded man to hold the office of President in recent memory and his conniving handlers must be grinding their teeth at the thought that they now have to count on the work of engineers and scientists to rescue them and their fanciful "Americans to the Moon, Mars and Beyond" campaign strategy from embarassment and disaster.

The recent effort by Karl Rove & Co.to parlay the landing of a robot rover on Mars into a campaign gimmick, designed to give Bush that "vision thing" his father found so lacking has run into a huge pothole: the crash of the $400-million rover’s sophisticated electronics system. Once again, NASA’s effort to put a equipment on the Martian surface appears in danger of failing spectacularly, leaving a $400-million piece of junk on the planet’s surface.

It will be interesting to see how the corporate media, which managed to keep a straight face while running fanciful drawings by NASA artists to illustrate the non-story of Bush’s purported "return to space" proposal, despite his offer of only $1 billion in extra funding (roughly the cost of this and another duplicate Martian rover), handles this propaganda fiasco.

If NASA cannot manage to make a robot work on Mars, how exactly is the space agency going to build a whole base on the Moon, much less the Red Planet?

Maybe the second rover, due to land on Mars on Jan. 25, will rescue Rove’s and Bush’s campaign stunt, but there must be a lot of crossed fingers over at the White House right now. The Democratic candidates for the nomination–and the media–should have a good time with this one, if they can stop obsessing about each other’s polls.

Actually, of course, Bush and the Republican administration have no intention of initiating a half-trillion-dollar program to send explorers to Mars. Heck, they can’t even find the money to finance medical care for the poor guys coming home maimed from the current war, some of whom are reportedly waiting weeks or even months for treatment because of a shortage of veterans facilities.

The whole thing was a political ploy, much like the No Child Left Behind education ploy, the Healthy Forest environmental ploy, and the Operation Iraqi Freedom democratization in Arabia ploy. With this admistration, the whole public agenda (as opposed to the private agenda of enriching the rich) is a Potemkin Village of programs, none of which are what they seem. The Spirit rover seemes to have lost its steam, which is sad for the scientists who invested years in the project, but at least its apparent loss gives the lie to one of those pieces of presidential fakery–in the process shining a light on the larger charlatanism.

It’s a fair bet that it will turn out the problem on the rover was caused by NASA engineers having to make shortcuts because of underfunding by the Bush Administration of the very project he was trying to take credit for–about what one can expect to happen to whatever stunted lunar project–if any–gets underway in the years to come.

And about what is happening to the nation’s schools, forests, rivers and soldiers.

Then again, maybe instead of the Martian rover discovering signs of life on Mars, life on Mars found the rover, realized the device was the advance guard of an invasion from Earth, and did something Native Americans probably should have done to Columbus: drove a stake through its heart.

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