An Exodus rocket launched three Israeli astronauts and 100 Palestinian refugees into orbit Wednesday, kicking off a ten-year mission to establish a permanent human colony on the surface of Mars.
The rocket roared into mostly clear skies from the Gaza Strip at 11:50 PM EET on February 20, 2013. Once in orbit, it will jettison a tiny capsule dubbed "Exodus I," beginning a two-year journey to the Red Planet for the 100 Palestinians packed tightly inside. Then a larger capsule will return the three Israeli astronauts back to the safety of Earth.
"We are very excited to finally be getting this endeavor underway," Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu said of the successful launch, four years in the coming. His successor, Ehud Olmert, first announced plans early in 2009 to provide funding for the newly created Palestinian Aeronautics and Space Administration, or PASA, "in hopes of allowing the Palestinian diaspora a chance to reconvene by establishing a new homeland on the surface of Mars."
"Olmert was right," said Netanyahu. "It doesn't make sense to keep launching rockets at these people when we could be launching rockets full of them instead."
The Palestinian population worldwide, he explained, is estimated at around 11 million people. Even though the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination is generally recognized by world councils and assemblies, more than half of them are stateless and lack citizenship in any country, and they have never exercised full sovereignty over the land they live in.
"Now, all that will finally change with the establishment of a new homeland on Mars," Netanyahu said.
Once the craft is in orbit, the Israeli crew will use a robotic arm to fling a capsule containing the first 100 Palestinian refugees into deep space. When they plummet to the surface of Mars in about two years, they will begin terraforming it as they prepare for a steady stream of new arrivals, connecting Exodus capsules end to end to provide housing for the first Martian settlement.
Meanwhile, more Exodus rockets and capsules are already under construction in Tel Aviv as PASA readies for the ambitious goal of removing approximately 5,000 Palestinians from the surface of the Earth per day over the next several years.
Mars is a hostile environment, but those destined for it say it couldn't be any worse than the perpetually war-torn conditions and the cycle of Palestinian resistance and Israeli reprisals they've grown accustomed to since their struggle for sovereign legitimacy began decades ago. In fact, Palestinians from around the world have come back to the war-torn Gaza Strip to prepare for conditions they may endure on a capsule en route to Mars, like being trapped with 100 people in a cramped space that smells like urine while pieces of rocky debris fly at you from every direction.
"This isn't anything we can't handle," said Abu Abbas, one of the first 100 Palestinians launched into orbit earlier today, as he stepped into the capsule wearing a bicycle helmet and a special protective suit he made using aluminum foil. "Israeli troops forced us to live without food, water and oxygen for months, and we survived. This time, they let us eat first, and nobody will be shooting at us. We'll be fine!"