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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Monday, Sol 19 (001.2.19)  03:21 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Wednesday, 23 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT  
  • Distance traveled:  94,628,520 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 48 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  297,781,232 kilometers

It was a pleasant day in southern California. Two men sitting on the deck at the Cheesecake Factory at Marina Del Rey did not seem out-of-place. It was two o’clock and they were enjoying the Sun, the ocean breeze, and a late lunch. One man was wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap and sunglasses. The other was overweight, and looked like a tourist.

“I hope you understand that we have to move fast,” said the man in the baseball cap. The other man answered in a heavy Russian accent, “Mr. Musk, I assure you, we understand the urgency of the situation; however, we cannot pay for your space program on our own. If you can bring our friends in, then I think we can do business.”

Musk leaned forward and said, “The United States is no problem. After this election, ESEP will be as hated by Republicans as much as the Mexicans, and as for China, I’m working on them. They’ll come around.”

The overweight man replied, “But Mr. Musk, it does not seem that the Republicans will win this election. I don’t see how this helps us.” Musk answered, “Liberals hate space programs. If they win their will be no money for ESEP, but we can leverage the Republicans to demand funding for our program as a matter of national honor. Americans have to be one of the elite, and if we offer a Mars program that is exclusively run by the three super powers, they will not want to be left out. In fact, they will leap to be in a space race with ESEP.”

“Well, Mr. Musk,” said the big man, “you are very good at talking. Rest assured that if you bring the US and China to the table, we will be there, too.” Musk smiled and sat back. He had two partners in the bag. Now he needed China.

“Excuse me,” Musk said as he stood up, “I have two launches next month and I need to get back. Thank you again, for your support, and please let Mr. Putin know that he is welcome anytime to come to Texas and see our facility.” Musk walked through the restaurant and headed to the front door. As his driver opened the door he pulled out his phone and called Charles Bolden, Administrator of NASA. Musk started the conversation, “Russia’s on board if I can bring in China. What can I offer them?”

Musk’s call lasted almost all the way to his office, with several outbursts on his part, reminding Bolden that NASA was rapidly becoming irrelevant. In the end, Musk had what he wanted. China would build, Russia would launch, and the NASA would let SpaceX run the show. If Bolden didn’t feel like Elon’s administrative assistant before, he did now.