|Chavez before blastoff.|
|Chavez discussing his space mission two years ago with the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Lewinsky, after training in Florida.|
More than a year ago, the first president to lead a mission into space, North Korean leader Jim King Kong set off inside a missile - masquerading as a show of force against South Korea and Japan - that is today halfway between Mars and Jupiter. Jim King Kong took it upon himself to lead the mission singlehandedly, only bringing his pilot and engineer, both of whom have since passed away.
Supreme leader Jim's radio communiqués back to Earth travel at the speed of light, taking minutes before they arrive - and minutes again before he receives a response. His sometimes petulant remarks about the conditions inside of his cramped missile (which he describes as "less than saspactory") are punctuated with his consumptive coughing and startlingly poetic descriptions of some of the interplanetary bodies - such as comets, asteroids, his pilot and his engineer - which his vehicle has either passed, or jettisoned. The world's space agencies are already regarding Jim King Kong's mission as a failure, and have looked to Chavez for some months as the best candidate to "replace" the North Korean space cadet.
Now it is Chavez's turn to strap into the girdle in the chair that is welded down to a vastly more superior shuttle than Jim's.
A former paratrooper, Mr. Chavez turned to politics after a failed coup and prison sentence in his home country. Somewhat younger than Jim King Kong, it is believed that his training will sustain him for the duration of the mission. The plasma rockets and solar energy converters supplied by a busier-than-ever NASA will bring him to the outer edge of the solar system by 2032, and he will age far slower in his capsule, thanks in part to a hydroponics laboratory filled with blueberry plants, and what can be translated from the Spanish as a "salamander and stemcell biochemistry matrix" - which will enable him to pupate into a younger Chavez - along his journey.
Chavez was only convinced of the value of the space launch in 2007, when his advisers became concerned that his autocratic rule was becoming intolerable for other world figures, such as George W. Bush, who had been caught weeping after overhearing that Chavez had referred to him as a donkey and as Satan. This evening, as the former US president looks heavenwards to pray, he may see the flashing light to the left of the moon, and understand it to be his former adversary, winging his way towards Proxima Centauri.