WASHINGTON—Calling the program “the most crucial in the agency’s history,” researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill.
The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed. The unmanned explorer will reportedly traverse the chambers of both the Senate and House of Representatives, continuing its search as long as necessary.
“The climate Hope will be navigating is incredibly hostile to this sort of research,” said project manager John L. Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explaining that the rover will collect any deposits of funds it can find, however miniscule. “But we have engineered this vehicle to withstand the most challenging fiscal landscape, having learned from previous missions that the harsh, unforgiving environment of Congress often makes it difficult to carry out scientific inquiry of any kind.”
“It of course goes without saying that we cannot send a human being on such a mission,” he added. “The conditions are far too punishing.”
According to Callas, Hope will first be directed toward areas of Congress that scientists believe are most likely to reveal previously undiscovered discretionary cash flows. In the weeks ahead, after investigating several dozen seats on the Senate floor, the vehicle will move on to explore a structure called Mikulski’s Chambers, and by the end of the fiscal year the rover will bring its alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer online, attempting to peer into the largely opaque phenomenon known as the appropriations process.
“Tomorrow morning, we have a narrow window in which we hope to be able to study a House Budget Committee hearing,” Callas said. “We should have Hope in place by evening, at which point we’ll shut it down for the night to save on battery power. That should leave us well positioned to examine the vast mountains of allocation proposals that occur there and look for any frozen capital that we can hopefully break free for future missions and experiments.”
NASA engineers said the rover has several instruments that have been specifically developed for the mission at hand, noting that the vehicle’s robotic arm can flip through thousands of pages of legislation per second, its ocular scanner can analyze budget proposals for any liquid assets, and its delicate sonic gear can periodically test the atmosphere for pro-science sentiments that may have been stirred up.
Hope isn’t the first NASA rover to climb the steps of the Capitol and assess whether conditions in the legislative branch might be favorable to funding. A previous vehicle, Possibility, was launched during the budget crisis of 2011, but scientists reportedly lost contact with it when it attempted to cross the aisle in the Senate and became mired in treacherous procedural maneuverings.
Callas told reporters the current rover’s expedition is “absolutely vital” to NASA’s long-term research goals.
“The clock is definitely ticking,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that this is the last real shot we have at discovering whether there is funding support to be found anywhere in Congress, or whether we are, in the end, truly alone out here.”