|The world was watching, late that
September evening, when after many years of preparation,
the mission to Venus sat on the launchpad ready for
lift-off. Well, not quite the whole world - there were
sections of the human population who could barely afford
food, let alone a 191cm surround-sound wide-screen high
definition TV. But those who could afford both the food
and the TV were enthralled by the prospect that some of
their race would soon be making their way towards Venus.
The biggest speculation at this point was about the name of the rocket. Would NASA have bowed to pressure from corporate sponsor Coke and come up with some name associated with the soft drink? Or would they go for a name from mythology or history or rock'n'roll or science? The name was painted in big letters underneath a huge sheet, which would be pulled away just as the rocket lifted off.
As it turns out, the night that the final decision on the name had to be made, the boss of NASA, Pete Brady, had got drunk. Very drunk. He'd got drunk because of all the pressure surrounding the naming of the rocket. Everyone was badgering for their decision to be taken. The politicians... the bureaucrats... the businessmen... even his mother.
The naming system was all set-up so that he would just have to enter the final decision into one of the NASA computers. Once it was locked in, computers and robots would take care of everything else until launch day. A special robot would paint the name onto the rocket, thus ensuring that when it was revealed, the name would be a surprise to everybody watching. There was no way the jackals of the press would find out the name before launch day.
And it was going to be a surprise. Because by the time the Brady had got to the keyboard to enter the name, he was very, very drunk, and very, very sick of the whole rocket naming business. Someone had thought to ensure that the computer wouldn't take garbage characters or swear words, which was just as well, because if given the chance, he would have given NASA's first manned mission to Venus a completely unpronounceable or unbroadcastable name. Something like F&%8jk49--/, or perhaps well, you get the idea. So he thought again about the possibilities, and came up with an idea, which he entered. The computer accepted it, locked it in, and the painting robot went about its merry work, painting it onto the rocket.
The boss of NASA then staggered happily on his way, a fast emptying whisky bottle in his hand. By the time he woke up the next afternoon, Brady didn't remember what name he'd entered for the rocket. Or if he could, he wasn't saying. No, he really couldnt remember. It would be a surprise to everyone.
The countdown continued. Astronauts Ralph and Chuck were already ensconced in the rocket's cockpit. NASA was pretty confident about the state of the rocket, so the crew had only minimal checks to make before lift-off.
The ground crew was making their final preparations. Ensuring that the lift-off time and trajectory would be correct. Ensuring that all possible precautions for the safety of the rocket (oh yeah, and the crew too) were taken. And of course ensuring that the huge media circus that was present would have all the pictures they needed. The countdown had begun.
Brady was worried though. Try as he might, he just couldn't remember the name he had chosen. All he could remember was getting very drunk that night, and getting kicked out of a bar for singing too loudly (and badly). He would just have to hope the name wasn't anything too embarrassing. It was too late to change it now.
- The Year 2031
Copyrightę1998 Daniel Bowen