SOMERS, NY—Responding to the recent discovery of possible life on Mars, PepsiCo is launching an exploratory space probe to the Red Planet in search of fun-loving, 16- to 23-year-old beverage-drinking lifeforms.

The ThirstQuencher II space probe.

"A vast, untapped new consumer base awaits us in space," said Pepsi Director of Marketing John G. Cullums, whose company recently exhausted all markets on Earth. "The demographics on Mars look extremely promising."

Added Cullums: "Whatever life exists on Mars, it no doubt is thirsty. And if this life is indeed young and fun—as our initial tests indicate—it will surely settle for nothing less than a Pepsi."

The ThirstQuencher II space probe, set to launch Thursday, will collect samples from the surface of Mars, then bring them back to Earth, where Pepsi scientists will examine them for signs of coolness and youthful exuberance.

"The most critical test involves exposing the Mars samples to hard-driving alternative rock music from artists like Matthew Sweet and Soundgarden," said Pepsi astronomer Harold Iverson. "If, upon exposure, a Mars sample develops a flannel-like, plaid-patterned growth on its surface, then we can be fairly certain that the organism is young and 'radical' and, therefore, highly Pepsi-receptive."

Pepsi scientists are hopeful that the ThirstQuencher II space probe will return from Mars with evidence of the kinds of young, fun-loving, beverage-drinking lifeforms commonly found on Earth.

Despite not yet understanding the exact nature of Martian life, Pepsi is already moving ahead with a major marketing campaign for the planet. A powerful PepsiCo radio telescope will soon begin beaming at Mars the slogans, "Have fun, originate in an alien ecosystem, drink Pepsi" and "Pepsi: The Choice of a Newly Discovered Bacterial Biomass Formation."

"There's a possibility these organisms may not be familiar with the Pepsi name," said Cullums, explaining the upcoming ad blitz. "That's why it's crucial we build strong product recognition here well before we enter the market."

To create even more excitement, PepsiCo will launch a special "Absorb Pepsi Through Your Methane Gills, Get Stuff" contest.

"By absorbing Pepsi, young Martian organisms can collect points and win cool prizes," Cullums said. "Stuff like mountain bikes, hiking gear and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules, one of the building blocks for life."

Pepsi's official Mars product launch is set for September 1, when Pepsi Red, a new version of Pepsi which has, according to publicists, "a definite Martian twist," hits the planet's stores. The product will come in a convenient .000002 micron bottle, a size that's "perfect for thirsty bacteria."

Despite all the excitement, though, Cullums is trying to maintain perspective. "We may well find that life on Mars is older and married," he said. "That would be disastrous."