By Eric Mader
A Disassociated Press Report, Monterrey, Mexico, January 15, 2004
"You all know that the U.S. president has recently become quite interested in Mars missions," Powell said to a room full of Latin American dignitaries and press. "Well I want to tell you all today that I am among those who think he should be the first man to go."
When asked by President Ricardo Lagos of Chile if is his remarks were serious, Powell elaborated: "Many people in the U.S. have heard talk of a manned mission to Mars some time in the next decade. But I think a 2010 mission is unnecessarily belated. We have the technology to do this thing right now, and I've talked to many people in my government who think the current president is the right man for the job."
Powell went on to describe the technology he had in mind as "a hybrid of traditional rocket technology and SUV technology."
"Basically we put the president in a specially modified SUV, one modified for space travel, and the SUV will be mounted on a huge multi-stage rocket engine. Then, BOOM, we send him off," he said.
Powell insisted that he was not just talking off the cuff, but that like-minded researchers at NASA had already brought the project to the testing and development stage.
"I've seen models of the SUV rocket," Powell said. "I think any president would be proud to travel in such a craft."
The secretary of state went on to say that some members of what he referred to as his "Bush in Space" team envisioned not simply sending the president himself but sending the president's immediate family as well.
"We've got a special triple-SUV model," Powell said. "George and Laura would be in one SUV, the senior George Bush and his wife would be in the second, and the Bush daughters--with their own huge cooler stocked full of beers--would be in the third. The three SUVs would be mounted at angles atop a seven-stage rocket booster. Just think of it. All three generations of Bushes on the red planet."
Most of the dignitaries present showed support for Powell's initiative, several of them tentatively pledging monetary support.
"It's an excellent idea," President Vicente Fox of Mexico said. "Millions of people around the world would love to see this American president launched into space. It would be a great triumph for both American technology and humanity as a whole."
The White House offered no comments on Powell's remarks while at the summit, but Powell himself seemed pleased with his Latin American reception.
"With the support I've received here and with the expertise of my friends in NASA, I'm confident that we will be able in the near future to put the Bushes on Mars and keep them there," Powell said after the meeting. "This has been a very successful mission for me."
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