Mar 10, 2006 4:00pm

The following transmission was received today from the vicinity of Saturn, and translated by the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Office at the NRO, under warrant 2006-3/10a. The information included is considered highly confidential:

TO: All Solar System Recipients

FROM: Earth Observation Directorate, planetary division

Having established that there is no intelligent life on Earth, the third planet from the Sun (many of you know this object as the small blue one, about 93 million miles out), several planetary communities nevertheless report receiving visitors from it.

The visitors are quiet, awkward-looking machines, with shiny sides and big dish-shaped appendages that seem to be capable of sending and receiving radio signals. The technology to build them is clearly primitive; many parts appear to be made of metal.

Several times last year, our Saturnian colleagues made a mistake. They scheduled the venting of excess water from Enceladus–in plain sight of one of the Earth machines. Two Saturn days ago–one Earth day–there was a surge in intraplanetary transmissions on Earth (one newsroom in New York seemed especially disorganized), with repeated references to Enceladus. Saturnian translators report there were repeated references to "life" in the Earth transmissions; apparently the Earthlings believe liquid water helps life form. Clearly, they do not understand siliconic chemistry.

Within the last few hours, galactic time, there have been reports from our observatory on Mars: a new probe from Earth has been fast arriving. Monitoring of electromagnetic frequencies on Earth seem to associate the name "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter" with this object, although it is hard to tell because the relay from Mars is unreliable. As all sentient beings know, Mars presents much too warm an environment for life.

This "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter," if that’s what it is, appears designed to take high-resolution images of the Martian surface from a distance of less than 300 miles. One Earth transmission appeared to say, "If there’s something on Mars the size of a coffee table, we’ll see it." (Urgent message to all Mars expeditions: if you can establish what a "coffee table" is, and have left one on the surface, please hide it.)

The transmissions from Earth indicated some anxiety; unaware of our successful efforts to intercept their past orbiters, they believed that they themselves had failed several times in their attempts to send orbiters to Mars. This latest effort appears characteristically risky: in order to save fuel (they actually use rockets for propulsion!), "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter" was designed to graze the outer layers of the Martian atmosphere in order to slow itself by friction.

We must watch the Earthlings’ newest effort carefully. Any further success by them in detecting our activities will be regarded by the Directorate with the utmost seriousness.

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