EDITORIAL NOTE In a bad economy everyone needs more creative advertising, even the good folks at NASA, who just wrapped up their You Control the Hubble Contest. With national moods waxing on personal survival, and waning on space high jinks, NASA knows it must woo the Public for more moolah. The following transcript may have been supplied through the Freedom of Information Act, or it may have been simply made up.
"Thank you for calling Wienerschnitzel on Broadway. This is Jimmy, can I interest you in a foot-long?"
"Hello, there! This is Captain Hildebrand with NASA. I'm calling to inform you, Jimmy, that you have just been selected winner of our You Control the Hubble Contest!"
"I'm sorry sir, that was one wiener?"
"No, winner! You are the winner of our Hubble Contest, Jimmy. You have the opportunity other civilians can only read about in laughably dumbed-down science magazines. You, Jimmy, can tell us — all of us at NASA, or 'naysay' as we call it down here, I guess I can divulge that — you can tell us where to point the Hubble Space Telescope!"
"That's a Coke? Did you say a large Coke?"
"No, Jimmy — well, OK, I'll take one medium Diet Coke. What I'm trying to say is that you won our contest. We picked a random phone number from a comically outsized astronaut helmet here in Cape Canaveral — where it's really muggy by the way — and yours is the winning number! Jimmy, your vision and your vision alone will control the world's most powerful eye, for a couple of minutes at least. What distant object, what beautiful nebula, what galactic cluster do you desire?"
"We don't have salads, or clusters, or any of those things, sir! We have Hot Dogs and Chili Dogs and Foot Longs and Burger Dogs and Bacon Burger Dogs and some other stuff. That's one medium Diet Coke, anything else? Did you say you're a captain? Oh crap, are you from Corporate?"
"It's NASA, Jimmy. We're the (how can I put it?) space hot dogs. Apparently you won our Hubble Contest and now you can tell astronomers — very, very smart astronomers — what they should look at. Frankly, it doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore. We really should have done some vetting here. You have to understand, there's great pressure on space propagandists like me to keep that damn, vast nothingness interesting to penny-ante taxpayers like you."
"Mister, Captain, whatever, I gotta go. Buster, put that down! I'm the Manager on Duty, and Buster, well, he's trouble, poor little Buster. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with him. Anyway, he's got the hot cheese again, and — ahh, Jesus! I gotta go!"
"Jimmy, don't snafu this on me! I got a family to feed, and more importantly I just bought a fishing boat. A freaking nice one! It's got personalized calligraphy on the stern and everything! So, listen, dammit! If you had a really, really big magnifying glass, what would you look at!?"
"I'd focus it on Buster's red behind 'cause that's where the hot cheese is spilling! Oh, man! Jenny! Jenny, get the squeegee! Sit in the ice bucket, Buster! Ahh, Jesus!"
"OK, Jimmy, that's a roger. Setting the Hubble Space Telescope coordinates for Buster's burning butt at the Wienerschnitzel on Broadway. We'll tell the Public it's a new Mars-like planet. We can do that. Oh, and Jimmy? Don't forget my Diet Coke!"
Captain Hildebrand never got his beverage. Jimmy prepared it, but then realized he had no idea what to do with it. Buster, after a good icing and squeegeeing, was treated like a war vet when he got back home. Especially when he produced fistfuls of stolen hot dogs from his pockets! He wasn't so far out there. The Public was astounded by the pictures of a Mars-like planet with a deep canyon and flowing orange lava that had the chemical properties of Cheez Whiz.
Mostly, though, the Public was enamored with the mysterious amateur who discovered the new planet. Children's textbooks were amended to include "Amateur X." An artist's rendering of what should have been skinny, pimply Jimmy instead delineated a muscular figure gripping a telescope in one hand and a fully dressed Foot Long in the other. This iconic image will no doubt leave a lasting impression on future generations of scientists and fast-food workers.