Putting the best foot forward

. . . Voyager II was due to pass (Enceladus) as it left Saturn. . . . Enceladus had appeared to Voyager I to be as smooth as a baby's bottom and the NASA team was hoping for a view this time which might offer an explanation. Maddeningly, it was on this leg of the voyage that the platform stuck -- apparently affected by a piece of grit as it passed through the rings -- so all that was transmitted were views of a jet black sky.

Harold Jackson in THE GUARDIAN, Sept. 6, 1981m

Good evening. This is the All-Saturn Network News with Daana reporting. All Enceladus rejoiced today at the news that scientists had successfully repelled the second threatened invasion of our Moon by the Blue Planet, known as Earth. Our intelligence-gathering antennae long ago acquainted us with the danger posed by this overpopulated, polluted, and acquisitive civilization. When the Red and the Green planets were threatened, they were given ample warning by their antennae and our own, so that they were able to take defensive measures and to present their ''lifeless'' facades to the invaders' cameras. Our computers have subsequently informed us that no hint of the true state of affairs has found its way into any of the Blue Planet's informational storage receptacles. Still, some Enceladun scientists have continued to deplore the decision not to camouflage Red's canals, claiming that they have attracted far too much attention as a result.

Some say we grew complacent too soon; we were not really prepared for Blue's tenacity or its inquisitiveness, and we simply felt we were far enough away to be safe. So it must be admitted that we were shocked, as a moon, to find that the intruder of nine eons ago -- called by its makers Voyager I -- had passed within 77 erbs of us, and had succeeded in conveying to its masters a dim impression of our smooth outer shell. ''Smooth as a baby's bottom,'' says one of their recently monitored dispatches. Whatever that means.

Premier Taco moved today to form a Senate committee whose responsibility it will be to review the so-called ''smooth-shell'' decision. Senate critics have consistently assailed it as false economy, and have called for the extra expenditure which would be needed in order to give us the ''typical'' external appearance of, say, Janus. In arguing for the appropriation today in his news conference, Premier Taco said: ''Granted, these are not easy times for us, financially, but we would be in grave danger if we were to be discovered. With the peering antennae of the Blue Planet trained on us at all times, no Enceladun could ever again be assured of privacy. And when they have worn out their own planet, which could happen at any time, we would be the primary target for colonization.''

When it became evident that a second invader was to arrive late last eon, scientists swung into action, using our newest jammer, dubbed OKRA. Dr. Mirda, director of the project, spoke to our reporter when it was all over:

''As you know, Lele, we are not a cruel and sadistic people. There seemed to be no point in spoiling all their fun, so we made the decision very early to let them see a good deal of the nonsensitive stuff. We even added a few rings for the duration, which apparently delighted them immensely. Then we let them take back control of the machine as soon as the danger was past. One of the things we enjoyed most, as we eavesdropped on their transmission, was their supposition that they had somehow fixed the jammed camera themselves.''

''Were you ever actually afraid that OKRA wouldn't work?''

''Of course we were, because it had never been tested in the field. All we knew was that it had to work. The cameras of this second invader were a great deal more sensitive than those on the first. If they had managed to ascertain the makeup of our facade, it would have been all over.''

''One more question, Dr. Mirda: are you planning to warn Uranus and Neptune?''

''By all means. But there's plenty of time for that.''

''Thank you, Dr. Mirda. This is Lele, All-Saturn Network, at the Scientific Institute in West Enceladus.''

Thank you, Lele. Enceladus is a happy and fortunate Moon this evening. And now, in other news: Mrs. Premier Taco visited in the Rose Garden today with representatives from the International Girl Scout Movement. She wore. . . .

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