Dragging Mars Closer to the Earth
Part 1

The Planetary Lasso

Scientists are now one step closer to putting a man on the surface of Mars - quite literally, following an experiment carried out last month in which they successfully dragged the planet three feet closer to the Earth.

"It's amazing what can be achieved with a tractor and a sturdy piece of rope," said project director Professor Randy Wilmslow. "And the implications are tremendous. For years now we have pondered the most efficient and effective ways of crossing the vast distances of space to reach our nearest neighbours. Engineers have tried to perfect faster and more economical spacecraft, whilst theorists have suggested all sorts of fantastical ideas, from warping space to tunnelling through extra dimensions. Turns out that we could have just moved the planets closer and saved ourselves a lot of painful and unnecessary twatting about."

Professor Wilmslow believes that, at the current rate of progress, many of the inner planets could be moved to more accessible orbits in the next five years, and that by next June the Moon should be within walking distance.

"Imagine that," he told us excitedly. "You could go for a day trip to Venus without having to pack for the journey, or pop over to Mercury and be back in time to catch the evening news. In many ways it will be easier to do your weekly shop on Mars than nipping down to your local Morrison's, since the parking will be easier and there's unlikely to be much of a queue at the deli counter."

Earlier this year, Professor Wilmslow was awarded a £200m grant to further develop the project, half of which has already been spent on devising a name. "It's still too early to reach any serious conclusions," the Professor told us. "After all, this is proper science - we've got to go about it the right way. We've got a few suggestions on the drawing board, and we're really quite excited about them. My feeling is that it should be some sort of funky acronym and incorporate the words 'protocol' and 'cosmic' in some way. I have my favourite, but I can't say anything yet until we've signed off on the logo."

Next time: An Intellectual Tug of War

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