by Jim Harris

NASA will launch its final shuttle flight next month. Oh, they’re making brave pronouncements about “new directions,” “operating more efficiently” and such, but everyone knows that NASA is kaput. Their cash flow is drying up quicker than a day-old 7-11 pretzel under a heat lamp.

The good news is that now the U.S. can spend all those billions on the sick and the poor. In fact, a new government program has been set up for just that purpose. It’s called “Health And Happiness Are Here Again,” (HAHAHA), and it will be administered by billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

Trump, host of TV’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and on-again, off-again presidential candidate, is a well-known opponent of NASA, as evidenced by this excerpt from a recent commencement address he gave to graduates of his (unaccredited) Trump University:

“We are all familiar with liberal hoaxes like global warming and evolution and President Obama’s place of birth, but perhaps the cruelest deception foisted on the public is the idea that space exploration and scientific research are important pursuits. Let me tell you young folks something: curiosity has killed a lotta cats out there. You shouldn’t be admiring reckless risk-takers like John Glenn or Neil Armstrong. You need to have down-to-earth heroes, big-time money-makers like Ben Bernanke, Bill Gates, Suze Orman and me. If you want adventure, go to a movie.

“In the new America, you don’t need to hitch your wagon to a star. Just hitch it to someone else’s wagon, and follow the money trail. Neither do you need to be a visionary. Your mantra should be not ‘I have a dream,’ but ‘I have a scheme.’ Thank you, and please leave your caps and gowns with the attendants on your way out so we can recycle them.”

Of course, NASA might not disappear completely if it can raise some operating money on its own. Several attempts are in the works:

One shuttle is for sale on eBay, another is being turned into condos, and yet another is being bought by a local diner to be used as an ice cream stand. The Philadelphia Visitors Bureau has also expressed interest in having a tourist-laden shuttle pulled around the historic district by a horse.

Additional funds have also been raised by licensing patented NASA catch phrases to commercial products:

“Beam me up, snotty.” (Kleenex)

“Houston, we’ve got a Waffle.” (Eggo)

“The Right Stuffing.” (Hamburger Helper)

“We have liftoff!” (The Living Bra)

“One small step for Spam.” (canned meat)

In Florida, the shuttle launch pad is being rented out as a training facility for bungee jumpers, and the shuttle hangar has been converted to a trendy nightspot, “The 250,000 Mile-High-Club,” complete with exotic dancers in see-through space suits.

According to NASA Chairman Werner Von Wonderbread, “If all of these fundraising projects work out, we stand to make hundreds of dollars, which would allow us to continue with our plans for a manned mission to Cleveland (via Greyhound bus) scheduled for 2025.”

Sadly, a lot of NASA technicians are out of work now. They’re so vastly over-qualified for any other job that no one will hire them. Who wants a rocket scientist packing their groceries? It’s just too intimidating.

Consequently, many of them are now applying to HAHAHA for financial assistance, but according to Chairman Trump, “All of our money is tied up in administrative expenses — training seminars in Hawaii, company jets, stuff like that. We hope that some of it will eventually trickle down to the needy.”

Taking advantage of the new dearth of manned flights, private companies are already entering the business of space:

•Toyota is building a rocket (technicians still working out a few kinks regarding acceleration), as are the Pep Boys and Walmart.

•The Chinatown Rocket Company is planning to offer a $20 round-trip to Jupiter.

•Playboy is building a “Space Mansion.” (“What happens in space stays in space.”)

•Canaveral Cruise Lines is building a luxury spaceship equipped with gourmet food, rock-climbing wall and shuffleboard court. (“It’s just like being on Earth!”)

Personally, I can’t wait. The sooner I can escape from this crazy planet, the better. As long as I don’t have to be accompanied by Donald Trump.