PASADENA, Ca — Last Thursday, the team leading NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission made history when the rover Curiosity identified indisputable evidence of life on Mars—or so it seemed.
The historic discovery, initially made by microbiologist Dr. James Weaver, turned out to be an elaborate ruse Weaver concocted in an effort to “take the piss” out of his colleagues.
“I couldn’t resist,” said a very smug Dr. Weaver.
“Those jagweeds were getting crazy excited about a bunch of damned rocks. It was annoying as hell. I thought I’d mix things up a little.”
NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory in November of 2011, and the Curiosity rover successfully landed in Mars’ Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. Its goals: to study the red planet’s geology, characterize its climate, gauge the possibility of a manned mission, and determine if the planet could have supported life.
In 19 months, Curiosity has traveled over 3.2 miles and discovered evidence of an ancient freshwater lake. Though Curiosity has found many of the essential ingredients of life—including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon—the rover has not yet discovered incontrovertible evidence of past or present life forms.
“We were analyzing some amazing rock samples at the foot of Mt. Sharp when James gasped,” said Dr. Anita Dodd, an astrogeologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“When we asked what he saw, he told us to hold on. He then spent the next 5 minutes staring intently at his monitor and muttering ‘it can’t be’ over and over.”
“I kept thinking, ‘there’s no way they’ll believe me,’” said Dr. Weaver. “I really had to sell it.”
“When we looked at James’ monitor, we saw what appeared to be a paramecium,” continued Dodd. “We were ecstatic; the whole team started hugging and high fiving. We later found out that James had replaced his rover feed with a Google image. Dick.”
“It was legendary,” said Dr. Weaver, wiping a tear from his eye.
“I had them going for a full 38 minutes. They were just about to call the project chief when I said ‘Dear God—is that a duck?’ They were all like, ‘where?’ That’s when I lost it.”
“I don’t know why we keep falling for this stuff,” said Gerald Griswold, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology.
“Last month, he photoshopped Old Norse runes into an image of the Wilson Cliffs. He also spent 20 minutes trying to convince me that the rover had found a Cheeto in the Gale Crater. I mean, c’mon; why would there be a Cheeto? That’s impossible, right?”
Dr. Weaver has since been dismissed from the Mars Science Laboratory mission and has taken up a post at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He says he will be investigating a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants believed to have been built during the most recent Ice Age.