Thursday, March 03, 2005

Overheard at NASA

This is a partial transcript of an actual NASA briefing.

"Okay, everyone, let's go over the final checklist. Humphries, did you make sure that none of this damn thing's software uses English measurements?"

"Yes, sir. All of the measurements are either in American or metric units."

"Great. Sanderson, did you make sure to add something that has to be turned on manually, so they'll be forced to invite us all to mission control in eight years?"

"Yeah. I actually made sure that all of the essential functions require human commands."

"All of them? That's all right, I suppose, but where did you find time for your other work? You were also supposed to make sure that high-gain antenna will unfold properly."

"Oh, yeah. I did that back when it arrived, just before we bolted it on."

"Was that before or after Michaelson dropped it?"

"Before."

"Good enough. Pennyweight, where are we on that radiation leak?"

"Ah, it's still there, but it shouldn't affect any of the instruments."

"What about safety?"

"Well, the radiation's coming from the module the Russians sent, so if anything goes wrong, we're off the hook."

"Excellent. All right, folks, this is looking good. Anything else?"

"Is it too late to add a rover?"

"Dammit, Jenkins, this probe is going to Jupiter's Great Red Spot! What the hell is going to do with a rover?"

"Well, look, everybody loves the rovers. That hottie on CNN always flips out and talks about how cute they are. Besides, Mars got two, and it's only one-sixth the size of the Great Red Spot."

"You may be onto something. What do you think, Kettlebroom? Is it too late to add a rover?"

"No, we could fit one on. In, ah, equipment bay 3C."

"We're not using 3C?"

"We were going to put the backup hard drive in 3C, to store some mission data in case anything went wrong with the high-gain, but we scrapped that during the third cost-overrun damage control workshop. You remember, the one at JPL where they served those little quiches."

"Oh yeah. I love those things. So the rover will go in 3C. Do we need to update the mission profile?"

"Well, the rover does have a high matter inertia loading score and it will probably induce minute three-dimensional oscillations in the trajectory of the instrument delivery system, but I'm confident we can deproblematize the mission profile during trans-space ballistic movement using the remotely-operated orientation correction system."

"That sounds pretty thorough. Now, what have we got left? Daniels, did you ever find the other half of that sandwich?"

"..."

"Speak up, please."

"Ah, no."

"Do you have any idea where it might be?"

"Um, I think I left it on the CPU."

"You mean the CPU that is currently bolted, soldered, and glued behind sixteen million dollars of expensive, fragile equipment?"

"Yeah, that's the one."

"How long can the CPU hold out with a moldy sandwich sitting on top?"

"Well, I actually ran some numbers. The vacuum will kill all but the worst of the bacteria, so the sandwich shouldn't cause a problem for at least five years."

"Okay, great. I should be at Cornell by then anyway. I think we're done here. Nice work, people. Now get some rest, we've got that comet flyby on Monday."

"Sir? We lost contact with that probe last week."

"Okay, I guess we'll get a long weekend. Thanks everyone."

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