Extraterrestrials buy home in Earth orbit
Cash-strapped space agency NASA has sold the International Space Station (ISS) - to a bunch of aliens!
As part of the deal, NASA gets to continue using the orbiting platform for 13 weeks a year until 2030, under a timeshare agreement.
"Although President Obama's recent budget changes have extended the life of the ISS to 2020, we were still looking at some big bills," said Dr Buzz Ablative, a one-time consultant to NASA. "The Space Station is getting old now, and the whole damn thing needs a new coat of paint. And with this money, we can think about adding some additional modules. A conservatory would be nice."
Neither NASA nor the Government would release details of the deal, or who's bought the ISS except to say that they come from a galaxy far, far away.
"Actually, we're not sure where they're from," said a NASA insider who asked not to be named. "Nor are we entirely sure what they want the ISS for. There was some talk about vacations, but they've already submitted plans for adding something called a BSE. I believe that stands for 'Bovine Storage Extension'."
According to the same source, the agreement between the extraterrestrial entities and NASA comes with a number of conditions. "They want us to widen all the hatches and install softer lighting," he said. "But apparently they don't need sleeping facilities."
There is some concern among US astronauts about the aliens' plan to enlarge the medical module on the ISS to three times its current size. "It seems that they need plenty of room for medical procedures of some kind," said Ablative.
He added: "On another note, they've submitted a request for a full list of the 'probes' that the ISS currently carries. I'm not sure what they mean by that."
There are rumours that NASA may have got an even better deal than they first thought. "The aliens have paid for 39 weeks a year until 2030," says the insider, "but they've hinted that they may not need it after 2012."
Ablative said that, following the success of this deal, NASA may be looking at selling other assets. "We may still build the Ares rockets, but sell them straight to the aliens," he said. "We'll obviously get more for them if they're unused. And then there's Houston. They can have the whole of Houston."
This knock-down sale of America's space capabilities is coming in for some criticism, but Ablative is bullish.
"It may seem unpatriotic to sell this stuff to aliens," said Ablative, "but if we don't do it, the Russkies sure will. That's what free markets are about."