Written by Dr. Space
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Topics: Space, Germany

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

European Space Agency HQ - Bad Kockupp, Germany. ESA official, Harry Cheeks has just made one of the strangest "Good News - Bad News" announcements in the history of space exploration.

Mr. Cheeks:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasant duty to inform you that the Beagle 2 has been located on Mars, in an unexpected location, but nevertheless in perfect working order!"

"Unfortunately, that good news must be tempered with some not-so-good news, concerning the unexpected location of Beagle 2."

"As many of you will know, our working relationships with the US space agency, NASA, have always been extremely close and collegial. NASA has graciously provided us with not only advice on the design of some of Beagle's systems such as the parachutes and heat shield, but also helped us with the development of the control software for the Beagle 2 landing system. And as we have stated ad nauseam, our budget has been extremely tight. Frankly we could not have afforded the time and expense involved in developing such software from scratch, so we jumped at the chance to share NASA's work in this area."

"Unfortunately, it appears that our Chief Software Engineer, Dr. Ross Ewage, did not exercise adequate judgment in using the software examples that NASA kindly provided for our use. Instead of using the example program listings as they were intended to be used, that is, as bloody examples, Dr. Ewage copied the program instructions verbatim into our onboard computer, apparently overlooking some highly technical instructions in the NASA program listing, to wit: "Note: insert your own landing coordinates here."

"ESA have had no choice but to terminate the employment of Dr. Ewage, who offered only the lame excuse that "I found the programs incomprehensible, being chock full of curious verbs and math symbols, and I guess I simply panicked." It has only now come to light that the good Dr.'s credentials are as a Medical Doctor (urinary tract specialty), rather than as a PhD (quantitative astrophysics specialty, i.e. rocket scientist). Needless to say, a thorough review of ESA hiring and classification practices has been ordered."

"ESA has just communicated this rather delicate matter to NASA, begging their forgiveness, and asking them to please readjust their landing target. This, in order to avoid wrecking our little Beagle 2, now calmly sitting on the surface of Mars, in the exact spot that the 1400-pound NASA lander is aiming for."

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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