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Cosmic Chronicle
News you won't find anywhere else Vol 1, Issue 5 -- 08.01.2008
NASA picks van to fill in during gap
Dodge Caravan to replace shuttle
By Jim McNutt
National correspondent
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. -- NASA celebrated its Golden Anniversary on July 29 by announcing plans to boldly drive where no man has driven before -- outer space!
    Faced with a projected five-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2010 and first launch of the new Constellation project, officials have decided to use a Dodge Grand Caravan to transport crewmembers and spare parts to the International Space Station.
Caravan
Dodge's Grand Caravan

    “We've kind of hit a mid-life crisis," admits William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s human spaceflight chief. "But it’s not as crazy an idea as it sounds. With the Caravan’s patented Stow ‘n Go storage system, we can pack a lot of stuff into it -- or use the seats for additional astronauts.
    “It's also already aerodynamically- designed, the lousy gas mileage won't matter because we're removing the engine and drive train, and at about $25,000 a pop for a base model it will fit in nicely with our budget constraints.”

    NASA plans to blast the Caravan into orbit atop an Atlas V rocket and outfit it with retrorockets so it can maneuver in the vacuum of space.

    “We'll rig it up so that the pilot will just have to turn the wheel to steer,” explains Gerstenmaier. “It’ll be like driving on I-95, but without all the traffic.”

    The docking station at the ISS will be tailored to create an airtight seal with the Caravan’s power side doors.

    “Transferring the payload will be as easy as pulling up to the loading bay at BrandsMart,” boasts Gerstenmaier.

    He adds that the van has satellite TV capability “which is very useful in space -- especially if you don’t want to miss something important, like 60 Minutes or the American Idol finals.”
Aerodynamically-designed
The Caravan  is already aerodynamically-designed

    The biggest technological challenge will be re-entry, but engineers are confident the ceramic tiles they used on the shuttle will work for the van. And since the Caravan can’t fly on its own, a parachute will be deployed to drop
it safely down to earth. For water landings, the van’s front and side curtain airbags will be modified to serve as floatation devices.
    "We originally planned to rely on the Russians for transport to the ISS, but with the Cold War heating up again we’re not sure we can trust them,” says Gerstenmaier. “Besides, considering the way sales are going for U.S. auto-
makers, we like to give them some business.”

Stellar sex shocker!
Virgo the Virgin caught in threesome
By Ace Sweeney
Intergalactic correspondent
PARANAL, CHILE -- Astronomers at the Very Large Telescope complex in the Andean highlands have made a stunning discovery -- Virgo is no longer a virgin!
    “Late on the night of July 26, we spotted Virgo in synchronous orbit with Orion the Hunter, who wasn’t wearing his belt -- or anything else!” says Pierre LeDouche, chief astronomer at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere. “There’s no doubt they were in conjunction.”
Virgo the Virgin
Virgo the Virgin
    LeDouche adds that there seemed to be an unusual elongation in the magnetic poles of Orion’s brightest star, Rigel, as the constellation approached a black hole in the Virgo cluster.
    “Then, we witnessed an occulation of the celestial bodies,” recalls LeDouche. “Clearly, if Virgo was a virgin before this event, she wasn’t afterwards.”

    Shortly thereafter, Taurus the Bull rose.

    “The horny devil came into a synchronous rotation with the other two bodies and entered into superior conjunction with Virgo," says LeDouche. "Meanwhile, Orion went retrograde and then there was a massive release of stellar magma.

   
“It was almost like watching Debbie Does Dallas!”

Britney the Pop Star
Britney the Pop Star
    LeDouche says the three constellations also took a meteor shower together before dipping below the horizon.
    “We have this scandalous menage a trois recorded, so Virgo cannot deny it happened,” says LeDouche. “Armed with this evidence, we plan to lobby the International Astronomy Union to change Virgo’s name, since it is no longer appropriate.
    "My recommendation is we change it to Britney the Pop Star, who was also once famous for being a virgin when she wasn’t!”
     
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The Cosmic Cafe
 
presents:
Frank Hettick

Our featured artist, Frank Hettick
Frank started painting space scenes at 13, but life got in the way and he took a 50-year break before continuing where he left off in his "retirement."
Click the image above for  more of
his awesome work.
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