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In the Sky a Path We Pave, Lined in Rhyme: Burma Shave

June 02, 1993|ROBIN ABCARIAN | Robin Abcarian's column is published on Wednesdays and Sundays

Early this spring, a Georgia company with ties to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the University of Colorado announced its intention to launch a one-mile-wide satellite into orbit in 1996.

The "Environmental Space Platform," made of Mylar, will be shaped like a giant billboard and will be large enough and bright enough to be seen by the naked eye as it traverses the sky at an altitude of about 180 miles. It will appear to the Earth-bound to be about the size of the full moon and will be visible for about 10 minutes each time it passes overhead.

Supported by commercial sponsors, its scientific purpose is to carry instruments that will monitor the Earth's atmosphere. Sponsors will buy the right to use the project logo in their advertising. But they will also be able to buy space on the satellite itself, since giant, aluminized letters will be visible to Earthlings. This has prompted some critics to deride it as an "orbiting billboard."

I rather like the idea--advertise globally, sell locally. Plus, 180 miles out, you certainly wouldn't have to worry about the pesky pigeon problems that trouble ordinary billboards.

Astronomers, poor sports that they are, see this as a terrible development. They have accused the company, Space Marketing Inc., of commercializing space and, by introducing yet more light into an already too-illuminated night sky, hampering "deep-sky astronomy."

In fact, a British astronomer who chairs the environmental committee of the United Nations International Council of Scientific Unions called the development "the ultimate disaster for astronomical science."

Politicians, meanwhile, rejoiced. Another forum for campaign ads. . . .

Sources say that when mayoral candidate Richard Riordan heard about the new satellite, he phoned the company right away.

"How much?" he asked.

"Well, it's not really for sale, sir."

"Will 345 kajillion simoleons do the trick?"

"Paper or plastic?"

Just a little pre-election joke!

My only question is, why stop at one billboard in space? Why not launch a series of them--four, say--to trail each other across the firmament, like some cosmic Burma Shave ad? I can see it now--doggerel in space.

Sheepishly, I offer a few topical suggestions. . . .

I Did Clinton know his haircut was A scandal in the offing? He spent two C-notes on the trim A case of deficit coiffing?

II Up here the air is icy cold Undressed, you'd really shiver You'd never stroll around unclad Like Sharon Stone in "Sliver."

III Now here's a fight we'd like to see Not Leonard vs. Hearns The baddest dudes who ever blabbed That's Limbaugh vs. Stern

IV Venice ducks have asked the courts To please do what is fair, They ought to plead with Hillary To give them all health care.


Richard Riordan has a plan To make this city go. But if you want to get a job, It helps to live in Mexico.


If Michael Woo would like to be A man for all the people, His posh and pricey office redo Makes that pose seem awful feeble.

VII L.A. schools are in the dumps Kids and teachers seem so blue Could tiny districts be the answer? Breaking up is hard to do.

VIII Poor Pete Wilson has it rough He's felt no warm embrace From Sacramento Democrats You think it's cold in space? To go where no billboard has gone before . . . Beam me up, Budweiser!

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