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Hmm. It seems there is a bit of a penis dance going on in the international aerospace community. Just recently, a British scientist named Pillinger at the ESA called a press conference to announce (essentially) that the ESA would be sending a lander, the Beagle 2, to Mars. He observed that the U.S. rover scheduled for roughly the same time (2003) would be in almost the exact same area. He went on to compare the two, noting that the U.S. rover would be more of a 'stunt' than science, and stating that if one examines its capability, it would do little more than 'raise the flag.'

CNN reports:

A NASA spokesperson expressed surprise at the Pillinger pillory. "We're working closely with ESA on the Mars missions," he said. "I don't know why Pillinger did that. Maybe because he is looking for funding." He humorously dismissed speculation that a NASA rover would use a RAT (Rock Abrasion Tool) to snip the cord of a soil-burrowing mole attached to the Beagle.

Oh, yeah? Look, pal, I don't give a damn what planet you're on or what you think you're doing there. We're the US of A, pal! I mean, hell, given that ours can move and yours can't, we could stick that Rock Abrasion Tool right up its exhaust port! In fact, we could do one better! Hell, I'm all for just giving the rover an extra little package. I want it to drive nonchalantly up to the Beagle 2 and drop off a little 'gift.' Then, I can just see the NASA guys waiting by the phone while watching the BBC coverage of the Beagle 2 mission:

ESA Scientist 1: I say, chaps, there's something quite strange. Camera 2 is occluded.

ESA Scientist 2: Hmm. Back off the zoom and let's have a look.

ESA Scientist 1: Looks like a NASA logo. What is that? Looks sort of like a pocket flask.

ESA Scientist 2: By George, there's writing on it. Back off a bit more.

ESA Scientist 1 (squinting at the monitor): "This...side...towards...enemy." This side...? HEY!

NASA admin Dan Goldin (In Houston, to Mission Director): Push the button, Frank.


(Voice from outside the room, as the NASA crew light cigars and relax, grinning): No, I'm sorry, Mr. Goldin is in a meeting and can't be disturbed right now...