Somali Pirates Hijack International Space Station

Houston, Texas, June 28, 2009 -- Somali pirates hijacked and have taken control of the International Space Station, NASA sources announced yesterday. The pirates, who approached the vessel using small, inflatable spacerafts, are demanding a ransom "in excess of ten million dollars", according to Dr. Julius Vern, vice-administrator of NASA's International Space Station program, or they will destroy the vessel.

"We believe the pirates achieved access through the Harmony module after penetrating the ISS hatch security barrier," Dr. Vern said. The hatch security barrier, a Hide-a-key in the form of a small, ornate, artificial flowering shrub tethered just outside and to the left of the hatch, would be "revisited" in search of potential flaws following the incursion, according to Dr. Vern.

NASA said the current staff of the International Space Station, a six-member crew who are tasked with performing a four-month series of experiments on the effects of micro-gravity on the formation of sponge cake, were unharmed after taking shelter from the hijackers in high-security Kevlar sleeping bags.

The pirates are believed to be members of a Puntland-based warlord faction in northern Somalia, where recent satellite tracking shows a series of explosions indicative of inflatable spaceraft launch activities.

Due to the international nature of the International Space Station, response to the pirates' demands must be multi-lateral, leading to some cross-border rancor. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has urged the "immediately blowing up of the station and everybody on the inside of it" as a lesson to the pirates, while Canada, another important ISS collaborator, advocates a more nuanced approach that would preserve the multi-billion dollar investment in the station, as well as the lives of the astronauts on board.

An additional wrinkle in the ongoing crisis is a demand by the pirates for safe passage back to Earth, given that their spacerafts were destroyed by a meteor shower just hours after docking. With the Space Shuttle program currently in phase-out mode, there are no missions scheduled that could provide sufficient passenger space for the estimated nine pirates to be ferried back. The only viable alternative, a Russian Soyuz rocket, has been discounted as an option by Putin.

"At the moment, we don't know how this is going to end," Dr. Vern said. "We'll just have to ask our mission specialists to 'hang in there', and hope the Somali pirates don't eat the sponge cake."

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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