The National government has released plans for a space programme designed to send a manned ship into space.
Business analysts had been expecting Steven Joyce to announce further changes to tertiary education funding, when he called a press conference for this afternoon. Instead, he unveiled the plan to send a man into space by the end of the year.
“Critics have said this government lacks boldness,” said Mr Joyce. “Well let me tell you something. They’re wrong. We’re going to prove them wrong by sending a manned mission into space by the end of 2012.”
Mr Joyce would not be drawn on the exact destination of any manned mission, but dismissed conjecture that the target would be Mars.
“Look, it’ll be an achievement for us just to get our guy into space. Let’s take one step at a time.”
When asked by reporters whether any studies had been undertaken on the economic benefits to New Zealand of a space programme, Joyce confirmed that work was still being done.
“This is not just about economics,” said Mr Joyce.
“It’s about lifting the spirits of a nation wearied by years of sluggish economic growth. It’s about providing hope and inspiration for our young.
“But most of all, it’s about providing a home for the Beast of Blenheim.”
Joyce said that the space programme had been thought up after a brainstorming session with Department of Corrections officials.
“We had nowhere to put the guy. He can’t stay in prison, Whanganui’s the only part of the country where he has no victims, and now the people of Whanganui are fighting hard to keep him out.
“We were scratching our heads trying to figure out where to put him, when Anne Tolley said ‘if only we could shoot the bastard out into space’. That woman’s a genius, I tell you.”
Joyce said the estimated cost of the space programme was “somewhere between half a million and eighteen billion dollars. The top price gets us a full space programme, complete with top of the line equipment, rockets, trained engineers and scientists from the US, and a massive space complex.
“At the other end we basically just construct a rocket from firecrackers, tie the guy on, point it upwards, and then light the fuse.
“There are some potential safety problems with this, due to the explosive nature of fireworks, so we may have to consider the more expensive option.
“It goes without saying that we’d like this space mission to be a short one-way trip. For one thing, we’ve nowhere to put Stewart Murray Wilson if he comes back down to Earth.
“However, officials are being aggravated by the man’s lawyer, who is insisting that he has rights too and can’t simply be shot up into space without being given a chance of survival.
“So it’s possible we’ll have to build an entire space station to house him.”
Politicians from other parties were quick to comment on National’s ambitious project.
“There should be a public transport option if we’re going to go into space,” said Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.
Labour’s leader David Shearer said he thought the plan was a good one, and then he changed his mind, and then he said he didn’t know.
And Conservative Party leader Colin Craig just kept saying “I have nothing against homosexuals, really.”