Mischievous Raccoon Wreaks Havoc On International Space Station

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Vol 40 Issue 23

Boss' Threats Hilarious

KNOXVILLE, TN—Employees working under Champion Direct Marketing manager Dale Farner found his threats during a Monday meeting hysterical, sources told reporters. "If you like your job here, you'll start to shape up," Farner said, reprimanding a group of his underlings working in CDM's basement offices. "You think your jobs are guaranteed? Think again. I can replace any one of you, just like that. There are plenty of folks out there who would take pride in telephone sales." The employees, most of whom will quit before the end of summer, broke into giggles when Farner threatened to cancel the staff summer picnic.

Leno's Voicemail Message Pauses For Laughter

LOS ANGELES—Tonight Show host Jay Leno's home outgoing voicemail message stops briefly to allow for audience laughter, sources reported Monday. "You have reached the home of Mavis and Jay Leno, and if you don't know what to do by now, then you've got bigger problems than Martha Stewart,'" said Leno's recording, followed by a five-second silence. "But seriously, callers, at the beep, leave a message." After a short pause, Leno's message concluded, "Am I right?"

Congress Launches National Congress-Awareness Week

WASHINGTON, DC—Hoping to counter ignorance of the national legislative body among U.S. citizens, congressional leaders named the first week in August National Congress Awareness Week. "This special week is designed to call attention to America's very important federal lawmaking body," Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said. "At least three citizens in every state, and as many as 55 in California, presently have some form of congressional duty, whether it's as a senator or as a representative." The festivities will kick off with a 10-mile Walk for Congress Awareness, when blue ribbons will be handed out in honor of those who served in the first 107 congresses.

Reagan To Be Honored With $5,000-A-Head Funeral

WASHINGTON, DC—Former President Ronald Reagan will be honored with five days of memorial services, culminating in a $5,000 a head funeral in Washington's National Cathedral Friday, Paul Darlington, a spokesman for the Bush re-election campaign, said Monday. "At 5:15 p.m. EST, former President Reagan will be escorted from the U.S. Capitol and received with ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, where a dinner of baby arugula, roast beef, and herbed red potatoes will commence," Darlington said. "As Reagan lies in repose, a host of leading Republican party members will be available for photo opportunities. President Bush, who will deliver a eulogy at the close of the solemn gathering, is urging all Americans to dig deep into their hearts to honor this great leader." Several thousand people are expected to pay their respects.

Guys' Night Out To Include Several Key Non-Guys

COLUMBUS, OH—Though buddies Jim Foglia, Chuck Harvestine, and Russell Vento insisted that Thursday will be a "guys night out," certain key non-guys are likely to be in attendance, sources reported Tuesday. "Honey, we're just going to be drinking beer and talking about the Reds—nothing you'd be interested in," Foglia told his wife Emily, withholding information regarding specific plans to begin the night buying drinks for college girls at the Varsity Club. "Maybe we'll stop for burgers afterward, I don't know." Based on previous "guys' nights," the trio will more likely end the night in the company of non-male lap dancers at the Vroom Vroom Room.

Suicide Letter Full Of Simpsons References

STORRS, CT—University of Connecticut sophomore Aaron Bennett, 20, was found dead of an apparent sleeping-pill overdose in his campus-area apartment Saturday, a suicide note riddled with references to the popular TV show The Simpsons on his desk.

Jim Anchower's All About Living Life To The Fullest

Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I been spending a lotta time quietly reflecting on all the things going on in my life. First off, I got shitcanned from my job driving people from the airport to the car-rental place and back. I was on lunch break one day when the guy who was filling in for me dinged a car in the parking lot and didn't tell anyone. The manager thought I did it, so when I checked the bus in for the night, he fired me on the spot, without even checking out my story. Man, that hurt. I was seventh in line for a promotion.
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Mischievous Raccoon Wreaks Havoc On International Space Station

MOSCOW—Orbiting the earth aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 9 scientists were chagrined to report a bevy of equipment and supply problems stemming from the behavior of an inquisitive raccoon Monday.

The pesky raccoon that has turned the ISS (below) upside down.

"Yesterday, we found fruit rinds in the EVA suits and helmets, and the day before, it was garbage strewn all over the Pirs Docking Module," ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke said via a video-link to Russian mission control. "Today, a controller on the starboard truss failed because the power cord was chewed clean through. The little guy's curious, that's for sure."

Both Fincke and Expedition 9 Commander Gennady I. Padalka of Russia reported surprise run-ins with the raccoon. Padalka said he was startled to find the stowaway nesting in the centrifuge accomodation module and Fincke said that the mischievous animal scurried underfoot as he was replacing a failed remote power controller module on a recent spacewalk and knocked him into a weightless spin.

Fincke said he traced the recent contamination of the ISS water supply back to the raccoon's habit of washing its food before eating it. The American officer added that the space station's external-refuse cylinders are regularly turned over and rummaged through—especially on nights when the crewmembers have consumed fish dinners or freeze-dried "astronaut ice cream."

Mischievous Raccoon Wreaks Havoc On International Space Station

Neither of the two scientists has been able to outsmart the wily animal, despite weeks of effort.

"Although the ISS is mankind's best-planned space station, it regrettably has no plans for dealing with pesky wildlife," said Padalka, who has been appointed temporary pest-control officer for the ISS. "We've put out Havahart traps, but the little bandit somehow always makes off with the bait. Evidently, due to zero gravity, the raccoon does not weigh enough to depress the trigger-plate."

While capturing the animal remains a top priority, Expedition 9 crewmembers are determined not to harm the sneaky little guy.

"Heck, if we announced we were going to exterminate him, mission control would go berserk," Fincke said. "They can't get enough of his antics."

"He is devious, this one," Padalka said, chuckling.

According to Padalka, the little critter's mischief does provide the crew with much-needed entertainment.

When Padalka opened his locker last week and found an orbiting thundercloud of rumpled wrappers in place of his private supply of Snickers bars, Fincke laughed so hard he spit out the pouch of water he'd been drinking. However, Fincke was not the one laughing when he spotted the playful creature running off wearing his spare Orlan-M spacesuit helmet. But both astronauts could enjoy seeing the bewildered raccoon scrambling to keep up with the zero-gravity treadmill, after having apparently triggered its "quick-start" switch.

"You have to give it to the little guy, he's persistent," said Fincke, who, while calibrating the ISS telescope last week, had a rare opportunity to view the raccoon up close, when its masked, bewhiskered face stared back at him through the telescope's other end.

Russian mission control monitors the actions of the furry little devil.

Fincke reported another recent run-in with the confounded varmint.

"I shooed him out of the Unity module, but then Padalka got me on the intercom, and the critter, seeing I was distracted, slipped in behind me and got his deft, furry little paws on the controls for the gyroscopes that stabilize the platform's flight. Before we knew it, the danger lights were strobing, the alarms were going off, and the whole station was upside-down."

Although NASA has been unable to determine how the animal got on board, lab analysis of the beast's droppings suggests that it's the same raccoon that caused hell and tarnation on the ISS during Expedition 7 in 2003. While none of the previous crew's members would admit to feeding the raccoon—which would explain its return—many expressed affection for the animal.

"I call raccoon Kosmo-Rascal, after favorite children's book," Expedition 7 Commander Yuri Malenchenko said. "If we caught him, I think we might have used him in benign experiment, maybe about training to do tricks. Is true nobody wants air filter clogged with nutshells, but nobody wants raccoon hurt, either. So?"

ISS personnel agree that, while unexpected, the raccoon is not entirely unwelcome.

"This is how astronauts learn to deal with new things—by living through them," Fincke said. "Zero gravity, environmental adaptation, varmints... all these are unplanned things that surprise us when we take a step into space. But we aboard ISS Expedition 9 haven't met a problem too big for us yet, and we'll work this raccoon thing out sooner or later. Hopefully, before the clever little dickens figures out how to work the airlocks."

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