Written by Tragic Rabbit
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Topics: Space, NASA, McDonalds, Mars

Thursday, 29 May 2008

image for NASA's Phoenix spacecraft touches down on Mars to get snacks, buy a map
A religious icon more mysterious than Stonehenge?

NASA says its Phoenix spacecraft has refueled and is ready for further adventures after making the first successful landing in the north polar region of Mars. The Phoenix was actually trying to find a faster trade route to China, however, so the general mood aboard remains a bit low.

Still, the astronauts took the opportunity to stop, get out and stretch their legs, buy nibbles and a local map.

Images sent back show a flat concrete area that gives the ground at the landing site a "paved" appearance. Above it is a tall steel pillar-type object upon which is mounted a neon sign with hieroglyphs that experts back on Earth are frantically working to decipher.

It is tentatively believed to generate its glowing signal to attract indigenous semi-intelligent creatures - as moths to lightbulbs - in order to exchange bits of metal and paper (refered to jokingly as "money" by the landing team) for various cheap, stale and generally inedible wrapped bits of alleged ingestibles.

The probe had to survive a fiery plunge through the planet's thin atmosphere to attain touchdown, slowing from a speed of nearly 21,000km/h (13,000 mph). The NASA team monitored each stage of the descent and landing process through radio messages relayed to Earth via the Coca-cola satellite in orbit around Mars.

Phoenix is set to investigate the planet and search for anything that would indicate the potential for quasi-intelligent life, such as corner shops, newspaper stands, abundant non-biodegradable trash and a Starbucks.

The mysterious giant golden neon arches seen in the latest images have previously been spotted from space and are thought to be a religious icon of potential significance to Mars dwellers, perhaps a gathering point for obscure rituals designed to appease the appetites of their local "gods".

Similar giant golden arches can be seen in major cities on Earth, though experts cannot agree on their significance.

Some scientists think there may be a large-scale structure beneath the colossal yellow arches seen from space, something actually "built" on the Martian surface. But all they have found so far is an extensive carpark.

Engineers and scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California clapped and cheered when the latest signal came through.

"Well, frankly, we've all gotten pretty tired of stale pizza on this project," one team member told reporters, "but we're trying not to get our hopes too high."

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

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