FORT SILL, OK (STARS & STRIPES) Within moments of the Bush Administration's failure to fund repairs to the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, an order was given to the US Army 30th Field Artillery Regiment to shoot down the aging telescope from its orbit around the earth.
Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery carried out the unusual fire mission with its famous Ruben Rivers M101 Salute Howitzer. Although the M101 is normally reserved for firing military salutes in parades and funerals, Bravo Battery was proud to get a chance to show its skills in zeroing in on such a distant target. The artillery piece was named for Medal of Honor winner SSG Ruben Rivers for actions in France on 19 November, 1944. SSG Rivers was the catalyst for the first African-American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor. SSG Rivers finally received his medal in January 1997, 52 years after the fact.
"We hit that sucker with the 2nd round. Hooah!" exclaimed a young lieutenant from Bravo Battery. "Sure beats the livin' crap out of firing blanks all day long!" Pieces of the Hubble Telescope soon began falling from orbit over a three state area. A large fragment fell on Bill Clinton's boyhood home in Arkansas. Bush administration officials were quick to deny that this was planned. A smaller fragment hit an outhouse in Mississippi causing minor injury to a sharecropper and interrupting his morning duties.
The big winner in the NASA budget this year is the exploration program aimed at returning to the moon and developing new technology that could pave the way for an eventual manned mission to Mars.
"It's a very tight budget year," said John Logsdon of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. NASA "did get an increase where most agencies didn't, but it was bad news for the Hubble program"
Nevertheless, the 2.4 percent overall increase is only about half of what the White House had promised last year after President Bush promised to ramp up America's space program. Shooting down the Hubble was seen as the only available option.
NASA officials point out that the telescope was designed to last only 15 years. They also stress that the new budget contains development funds for the James Webb infrared telescope that is expected to reveal some of the earliest stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang. It is scheduled to launch in 2011.