Reporters swarmed NASA headquarters today when it was announced that the space agency's Mars-bound research spacecraft, Pathfinder Lander was finally heard from. Officials received their first video signal Saturday morning, which was an image of a Burger King Whopper wrapper.
"At first we were thrilled. We thought we'd finally found concrete evidence of life on Mars," said one JPL scientist. "But when more pictures came in containing Pokeman characters and Barney, we reevaluated our conclusions.
After lengthy review, we began to suspect that the space probe was still in the proximity of the planet earth."The miscalculation apparently resulted from the NASA personnel's confusion about the spacecraft's weight. One scientist, who asked to remain nameless, explained the error. "Mickey over in engineering once told me 'That thing weighs a ton' and I took him seriously. But I guess it weighs much more than that. So my thrusters allocation never got it out of earth's atmosphere."
The Martian Lander, which scientists assumed for months was headed for the red planet, has been circling the earth all this time. It finally set down four weeks ago in the yard of nine-year-old, Ricky Foster Jr, of Escondido, California, who had been using the spacecraft as a secret fort.
"It was cool," said the boy.
"I've been sending messages to NASA for weeks now, saying how close we were getting, what speed it was going, temperatures, stuff like that. I just made things up and they bought it. Where I goofed up was when they requested video pictures. I should've never videotaped that Whopper wrapper. But I sure had 'em going for a while."
Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he said, "A NASA scientist or engineer. I'm not too good at math, but I don't think that matters much."