On July 6, 2011, President Obama conducted a Twitter Town Hall Meeting where he addressed the future of America’s space program. He spoke enthusiastically about the need to redirect NASA’s vision away from its current model that is rooted in the past and focus instead on aggressive new objectives, like a manned mission to Mars. The president further stated “A good pit stop is an asteroid. I haven’t actually — we haven’t identified the actual asteroid yet, in case people are wondering.”
Late tonight the Dawn spacecraft will rendezvous with the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn was launched in September 2007 and has now completed the first 117 million mile leg of its historic journey. The probe is scheduled to orbit the protoplanet until July 2012 to take scientific measurements and transmit back images before proceeding on to the asteroid Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015.
As the Dawn spacecraft begins it year-long mission, President Obama is engaging in a difficult mission of his own right here in inner space on Earth. He is tasked with persuading opposing congressional factions to compromise on issues relating to the urgent need to raise the ceiling on the national debt before default occurs on August 2nd. After a particularly acrimonious meeting with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, the President decided to walk out of the negotiations, as it was evident to him that they were going nowhere.
Frustrated and weary by these stressful events, the President concluded that he needed to get away for a spell. Camp David wasn’t really an option, so he decided to perform the ultimate escape to a place where he could experience some peace and quiet and contemplate the state of world affairs in solitude.
With a sharp click of the heels of his magic loafers, a flock of migrating wild geese suddenly appeared and swiftly transported President Obama to Vesta, arriving well ahead of the Dawn probe. To his amazement, the first thing he saw was a lone rose growing in the dry, dusty soil of the arid asteroid.
Recalling a long-forgotten lecture from a world literature class from the distant past, the President realized that he was standing on the very planet that was the home of the Little Prince described by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry nearly 70 years ago. The little man had appeared to Saint-Exupéry in the Sahara Desert where he had performed an emergency landing to repair the engine of the plane he was flying. The President further recalled the conversations the Prince had with the flower and the tenderness with which he cared for it. In particular, he remembered the instance where the Prince was concerned that his beloved flower would be eaten by a sheep during his absence. In comforting the distressed young Prince, Saint-Exupéry promised to draw a muzzle for the sheep so it could not eat the precious flower.
Then, in an inspired flash of genius, President Obama drew two muzzles, one for the House Majority Leader and another for the House Speaker. His problem was finally solved!
Illustration by Kim Harris
Story by Don Rudisuhle