Why Office Pranks Suck When You're a NASA Employee

This past week, while examining a section of sky near Gemini for the rest of an anecdote about an alien farmer\’s daughter, I came across an anomalous signal. Fairly quickly I determined it to be human in origin and, as it was unencrypted, I was able to reassemble its meaning without too much difficulty. The signal I was receiving was the journal o
Why Office Pranks Suck When You're a NASA Employee

It might come as some surprise to you to find out that all of us Cracked writers and staffers have satellite dishes in our backyards, which we use to monitor comedy events observed by our armada of orbiting comedy satellites. However, unlike the rest of the Cracked staff, I’m a bit of an amateur radio astronomer. Consequently, my dish is actually a 10-foot little number which I also use for surveying the heavens, constantly scanning the sky for fart jokes in the aether.

cracked-satelliteOne of 24 Cracked Comedy Satellites in a constellation of high inclination orbits. This past week, while examining a section of sky near Gemini for scraps of an anecdote about an alien farmer’s daughter, I came across an anomalous signal. Fairly quickly I determined it to be human in origin and, as it was unencrypted, I was able to reassemble its meaning without too much difficulty. (Before I became a columnist I was actually part of Cracked's SIGINT division.) The signal I was receiving was a journal, sent by the lone occupant of a space vehicle on its way to Mars. This vehicle was secretly launched by NASA in March of this year under the guise a mission to place a “space telescope” into "orbit." Composed of individual journal entries, transcripts of communications with mission control and wild, unstructured rants, this compilation told the story of a man who, in his own words, “had gotten royally screwed, right in the mouth.” So, as a service to all the conspiracy theorists and amateur radio astronomers who make Cracked.com their first stop every morning, I present a lightly edited version of this journal to you below. ___ Journal Entry: March 7, 2009 Ugh. I will never get used to that. Being launched into space SUCKS. It feels like being the turkey in a sandwich, except the bread is a family of fat people. Heh, that’s a good one. I’m going to let the guys in control know about that one, so they can add it to the list. Journal Entry: March 7, 2009 Addendum OK, apparently they’re not adding any more sandwich ones to the big launch metaphor list. Fuck those douches. Journal Entry: March 8, 2009 Post launch rest period concluded. Time to get down to work. The purpose of this mission is to conduct a trial run of the systems in a habitat module intended for a potential Mars mission. So strictly speaking my only real job here is to stay alive. I think I can manage that. Whoops! Almost died there. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Just kidding diary. Seriously though, I’ve got a whole checklist of things to do here, so I’d better get started. Day 1: Item 1: Use Toilet Item 2: Disassemble Toilet Huh.

david-bowie-space-oddityPopular astronaut. Journal Entry: March 14, 2009 Apparently I’m not alone up here. In another compartment in the module is a monkey. He's got this little machine that provides food and water, and he's hooked up to medical monitoring equipment. But what the heck is he doing up here? He wasn't mentioned in my mission briefing. Which was actually kind of rushed now that I think about it. I guess it makes sense. Looking at my checklist, it looks like I'll be working on his toilet quite a bit later on. Journal Entry: March 16, 2009 The food here is terrible. The larder is fully stocked, but with really inappropriate food. It’s got nothing but soup in here. And not astronaut soup. Cans of Chunky. It’s like someone raided a Costco for a fucking space mission. How am I supposed to eat this? Is this someone’s idea of a joke? It's been a week and this place is already covered in brown smears. All that toilet maintenance can't be helping. Journal Entry: March 20, 2009 I should be able to see Earth out of one of these windows, right? I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed that until now. When I checked in with control, they said it was normal. Apparently I’m in a highly elliptical orbit. They called it a Bigh-Bie orbit. Never heard of it before. Named after its inventors presumably. I could have sworn I heard them snickering when they said that though. Journal Entry: March 28, 2009 OK, this is bullshit. Every other task on my checklist involves using the toilet and then immediately taking it apart. Shit is literally getting out of control. Diary, do you know what comes out of an astronaut who eats nothing but soup? Or a monkey at any time, in any situation? This whole place is disgusting. ___ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON- MISSION CONTROL – 0815hr 04/16/2009 MC: Hi, Tim? This is Mission Director Mike Atkinson here. Have you been communicating with control on this frequency? Because the people on this line are not Mission Control. Do you know a Ron Berton or Aaron Grimhorst? HM A-1B: Yeah, I know those two guys. MC: Yeah, OK. Look, I don’t know what those guys told you, but this is supposed to be an unmanned mission. I don’t even know how you got in there. This is a real situation. HM A-1B: You’re telling me, Mike. I have been cleaning up my own shit for two weeks now. Also, what do you mean by unmanned mission? MC: Well it looks like these guys played a bit of a prank on you, there. This was an unmanned mission - well, a one monkey mission - and Aaron and Rob somehow snuck you on board. I’m not exactly sure how – this actually represents a pretty fundamental failure of several hundred different protocols. We're actually kind of lucky you're still alive. But, if you've got air, water and food, I guess you can hang out a bit longer. In the meantime we’re going to have to see how this affects the mission. You sit tight, OK? HM A-1B: Can do Mike. I’ve got another toilet check coming up on my checklist anyways. MC: Uh, yeah. Yes. Stick to the checklist. We may get back to you on that as well. ___ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON - MISSION CONTROL – 1942hr 04/16/2009 MC: Hi, Tim. First thing I want you to know is that we’re going to be disciplining Aaron and Rob. What they did was not cool. I want you to be sure that this kind of behavior will no longer be tolerated. Right now HR is redrafting our Tolerance and Harassment Policy to make this kind of thing explicitly prohibited. HM A-1B: That’s good. MC: Furthermore, Aaron and Rob will both be speaking with a counselor, and this incident will go on their permanent records. I can’t really go into the details, but between you and me I’d be surprised if either of them gets much more than a two percent raise this year, Tim. HM A-1B: I am glad to hear that. What about the rest of the timeline? I’m still scheduled for reentry maneuvers on Thursday? MC: Yes. No. About that. You are actually traveling towards Mars at a very high speed. HM A-1B: I see. MC: We’ve had the boys running the numbers here to map out a way to get you back to Earth, and it turns out the answer is pretty simple. HM A-1B: Oh good. MC: I said simple. Not good. You are not coming back to Earth. It’s just completely physically impossible. The guys tell me we could send you to Jupiter. Do you want to see Jupiter? I’ve heard it’s pretty big. You’ll, uh, almost certainly starve to death before then, but you know. An option. HM A-1B: ... MC: You still there Tim?

solarsystem-scale2Jupiter is prettybig. HM A-1B: Forgive me if I seem a little dazed by this. How? Why exactly am I going to Mars? MC: Well, contrary to whatever these guys told you, this mission was primarily intended to test the shielding systems on board the habitat to see how well they protect the craft’s occupants from solar radiation. That’s why the monkey’s there. HM A-1B: I’ve been calling him Buzz. MC: That is certainly your right. Anyways, the reason there's been all this secrecy around the mission is because we needed to do live testing on this shielding, but didn’t want to make it public we were using an animals. In fact, if you could check yourself for cancer real quick, that'd be super handy for us. Much more ethical. HM A-1B: -Finally cracking up- I can't believe this. I can't believe this. I'm going to die? I can't believe this. Oh God! My wife! She'll be devastated. MC: Ahh, well I’ve got good news there, Mike. She’s been cheating on you for the last eight months. With Rob actually. Hey guys, knock it off. Seriously. That’s inappropriate. They just high-fived here, Tim. I’ll talk to them about that. Anyways, hang tight. We’re not completely out of ideas yet. And I've got good news! That checklist you've been working on, uh, your duties? You can stop that now. That was part of the prank. We’re going to upload Spider Solitaire to you right now, OK buddy? That should keep you busy. And we’ve got a dozen guys working on getting you Freecell. Great things are a foot! -Editor’s note: What followed next was 43 pages of extremely bitter commentary about a woman named Helen, and many faults she purportedly possessed. In the author's mind she appears to be some sort of mythical beast of legend, sort of like a Hydra. The most concise definition in the extract is “a frigid ice bitch with 80 bitchy heads bitching all the Goddamned Time ABOUT BULLSHIT.” This section has been removed in the interests of taste and narrative flow. - ___ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON- MISSION CONTROL – 1114hr 04/27/2009 MC: Hi, Tim. Regarding your transmission, we passed it on to Helen, but I don’t believe she read it. I did though. Jesus man, that was some pretty nasty stuff. I mean, I know you’re in a bad place, but seriously, that was a real dick move. ______ Journal Entry: May 28, 2009 They asked me to leave the monkey alone, because he was "important." But screw them. Me and Buzz are death row buddies. We are going to have a ton of whimsical adventures while we wait to die, just like that terrible Tom Hanks movie. Anyways I let him out of his module this morning, and showed him around the main hab. I think I'll try and teach him some games next. Journal Entry: June 5, 2009 Buzz is super smart, but he seems to be having a lot more difficulty in the zero gravity than myself. Maybe it's because he's so small, but he keeps getting stuck halfway between walls, flailing around and screeching like mad. I had been helping him when he got stuck, but this morning I left him like that, trying to coach him to rescue himself. That turned out to be a mistake. I don't know what they taught that monkey, but it would appear he has a very good grasp on Newtonian mechanics and their application with respect to poo flinging. And I had just gotten this place clean again. Journal Entry: August 17, 2009 Fuck that monkey. I don't know how he did it, but he got into my locker and took all my pants and wouldn't give them back. Then when I tried to catch them, he ripped them to shreds. This is bad news. It's kind of chilly up here, in fucking space. For now I'm wearing my extra shirt as pants. This is bullshit. It's like eighth grade gym all over again.

ben-affleck-armageddonUnpopular astronaut. ______ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON- MISSION CONTROL – 1114hr 09/23/2009 HM A-1B: Hi, Mike? I think I lost Buzz. MC: How’s that? HM A-1B: I put him back in his room last night, and when I returned this morning, he wasn’t there. Actually his whole room wasn’t there. MC: Yes, that’s normal. That part of the module has detached. HM A-1B: Detached? Where’s it going? MC: Once around Mars, then back to Earth. There’s a wealth of scientific information stored in that monkey, Tim. He should have just enough food to make it home. HM A-1B: But not me. MC: Yes. Tim, I’m going to be level with you. You’ve just kind of annoyed a lot of people around here over the years, and on the balance of things, no one here appears to be that sad to see you go. The monkey’s great. Everyone loves that little bastard. You should have seen him at the launch party. HM A-1B: You like the monkey more than you like me. MC: Dude. Dude. I don’t know what it is man. You tell such terrible jokes. And you always laugh at them. Have you ever noticed that? How when you tell a joke, you're the only one laughing, and everyone's standing there uncomfortably, like you're a guy in a funeral procession and your penis just fell out of your pants? And you've got that horrible voice and face. Also a lot of the girls say you make them feel uncomfortable. And that denim jacket. HM A-1B: That's a pretty comprehensive list. MC: We've actually got a white board in the conference room here that's been filling up pretty quick. HM A-1B: I see. MC: See that’s another one! You always say shit like "I see," like you’re some kind of smug, morally superior robot. Hey Karen? Can you add “smug, morally superior robot” to the board? ____ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON- MISSION CONTROL – 0954hr 09/27/2009 MC: Tim, this is Mike here again. We’ve been going over the figures, and we think we’ve found a plan you’ll be pretty happy with. HM A-1B: Go ahead. MC: Basically, we’d like to slam you into Mars while traveling several kilometers per second, and see what happens. HM A-1B: ... MC: You still there Tim? HM A-1B: Fuck you, Mike. MC: I know that sounds bad, but think it through. Because your other options include starving to death or freezing to death. Plus, this way you’ll be the first person to set foot on Mars. MC-2: He’ll also be the first person to set knee, arm, shoulder and face on Mars, in extremely rapid succession. MC: Ron this is a private channel, but excellent point. Yes. So five separate records! Tim, I will look into seeing if we can get all those for you. _____ TRANSCRIPT OF HAB MODULE ARES-1B COMMUNICATION TO HOUSTON- MISSION CONTROL – 1114hr 09/30/2009 MC: Hi, Tim. The Guinness World Record people got back to me, and they said they’ll only give you the foot thing. They also said they’re probably going to have to put an asterisk beside it on account of, well, you know. ___ Editor's note: At this point, the communication stream devolves into the word FUCK printed a little over twenty-seven hundred times, and then just the letter F repeated endlessly, as if someone had set something down on a keyboard. __

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