Russia retrieves NASA Sojourner rover
on 2/16/2004 (6)
Russian Aerospace Agency Chief Yuri Koptev calls Smooth Operator with a most unexpected revelation...
|Comorade Kennedy! I believe this belongs to you! |
Cracking walnuts open with my fist and finger-flicking pencils into the ceiling tiles , I was sitting at my desk wasting the afternoon hours away, when the breaking news hotline rang. Brushing nutshells from my knuckles, I picked up the receiver to an urgent appeal from my editor Kris Steele.
"Motz!...do you speak Russian?!"
"Well...I know "Da" means "Yes", and "Nyet" means "No"...but I don't..."
"Close enough! Get your gear and get in here, chop-chop!"
I grabbed my video camera, cell-phone, tape recorder and my lucky Derek Jeter bobblehead doll, and hustled over to Kris's office.
"Yuri Koptev from the Russian Space Agency called! He wants an interview NOW...says he's got something bigger than Sputnik!" Here's a plane ticket, and 50 bucks for expenses!"
I made the mistake of hesitating
"50 bucks! Kris, H-how can I..."
"Oh yeah... you're right!"
snatching the U.S. Grant back from my palm
"I forgot to charge you for your parking space last month! Now get moving!"
After a 12 hour flight to the Ural mountain city of Perm, I caught up with Koptev at the bustling Energia rocket test facility.
"Hello, my Amerikanski friend. Good to have you! You look thirsty...Would you like an ice-cold glass of our national drink, 'Kvass'?"
Parched, I mustered my best "Da!"
"Then go up road a kilometer and buy yourself some. We are on very tight budget here!"
Hmmmm...somehow I felt right at home...
"Let us get down to business. Do you know what this is?"
Taking a model of the tiny NASA Mars rover "Sojourner" from his desk, he placed it carefully in front of me."
I picked the rover up by its antenna
"Well, yea...it's a model of the Sojourner rover, But why did you drag me half way around the world to..."
Koptev grabbed the rover, slamming it down hard on his desk. A fine dusting of red powder coated my white shirt sleeve."
"NOW, do you know what this is?!"
"Holy crap! you mean you went to Mars and retreived it and brought it back to Earth?! B-but HOW?"
"There is much you Americans do not know. Remember first lunar lander you sent to moon in 1969?"
My eyes widened
"Da!... Is in Gorky Park! We turn it into jungle gym for boychek and girlchek! In summer it is profitable ice cream stand! My wife is big boss!"
Shell shocked, I stammered again...
"B-but HOW? I thought you guys were 10 years behind us! How did you get there without us seeing you? I..."
Koptev laughed heartily
"We have been renting our half of ISS like Russian apartment, remember? 40 million for 3 days rent! We use money to build giant rocket to go to Mars. We launch rocket during lunar eclipse when you cannot see us! What you think? We are vodka-soaked country bumpkins? We have been ahead of you all along!"
Flabbergasted, I managed a weak response
"Why did you call me here? What do you want me to say to my Government?"
A sinister grin cracked Koptev's face
"Tell them whatever you want. NASA will never believe you. They will think you are crazy Kapushnik!"
Puzzled, I eyed him searchingly
"You see, my friend, when you print story, it will cause public panic like Red scare in 1950's, provoke new Cold War in Russia, and unite our broken Soviet Union once more!"
As I gathered my gear and headed for the door, Koptev jumped
"Oh! By the way...you owe me 50 rubles for parking space!"
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