$500 Million NASA Ares 1 Rocket Launcher Needs One (1) Rocket

If anyone has an Ares 1 rocket they need launching, NASA has a brand new, never-been-used $500 million mobile launching pad that's just itching to hurl something rocket-sized into space.

In case you don't get the humor, dry and subtle as it is, here's a quick primer: Just last month, the Obama Administration—how to put this—tweaked the NASA budget so that manned space travel would no longer be a priority for the agency.

Instead, NASA (which would actually see an increase in funding under the plan), would turn its focus planetside. Robotics, probes, satellites and other autonomous things we haven't thought up yet would be used to explore the vast reaches of the solar system.

Some people were encouraged by the news

"We think it's exciting," NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr., a former astronaut, said in an e-mailed response to questions. "It will enable us to do things we can only dream about today. It will foster new industries, spur innovation, create jobs and lead to more missions, to more destinations, sooner, safer and faster."

Others were discouraged

"We just pulled the rug out from human space flight," said Jim Bolton, a NASA manager for shuttle processing.

And others still were nonplussed, too busy throwing rocks at representatives houses over healthcare reform to care much either way.

Regardless of the above, the Ares launcher sits, fully functional, at the NASA Kennedy Space Center.

As an aside, it's important to note that Obama's budget has not yet been passed by Congress. He's scheduled to meet with NASA at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, where he'll no doubt go all-in to explain his budget, its impact, and how a shift to private "space taxis" would allow NASA to focus its efforts (and monies) on long-term programs. [MSNBC/Washington Post]