The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Monday, February 18, 2008

Frogs! Innnn! Spaaaaaace!

On the ground floor of my office building, there is a lone vending machine that sells both cold drinks and a few snacks (French offices typically do not have break rooms/refrigerators/microwaves, as one is expected to eat lunch at home or at a restaurant). One midafternoon last week, in need of a caffeine bolus dose, I wandered down to the machine and plunked in my 1-euro coin for une coca. Something behind the glass caught my eye: A candy bar wrapper that read "WIN A TRIP TO SPACE!" in a groovy Star Trekky font.

I'm not really a candy bar eater, especially when there are so many great chocolatiers and patisseries around for my rare sugar cravings, but this was too good to pass up--it was my boyhood dream to become an astronaut, and even though I realize now that it is very unlikely that NASA will call me up in need of someone to go up on the shuttle to the ISS and, erm, interpret and publish cancer research data, I still can imagine the roar and thrust of the booster rockets, the curve of the blue-green earth spinning away below, the infinite blackness of space, and peeing into a bag in zero gravity.

The coins dropped in and the candy bar clunked into the tray. Could this be my Willy Wonka Golden Ticket?

It was a Nestle Lion bar, which I had never had before--apparently some sort of energy-boosting chocolate with caramel and crisped rice, like a cross between a Nestle Crunch and a caramel Power Bar. Not bad, not great; but I was more interested in the wrapper anyway.

I carefully spread the wrapper out. Here's how it read (translation errors all mine):
Win 1 trip into space (see rules on back). [this was accompanied by a small picture of a shuttle-like spacecraft and some very tiny text:] With restriction that this prize has not already been won; photos and illustrations are non-contractual.

Join the pioneers of space exploration... Admire the earth from space and discover weightlessness!! [sic] Find your embarkation number inside this package. Enter at and instantly discover what you've won. Play also by SMS: send SPACE and your embarkation number to 61345 (.35 per message + price of an SMS according to your carrier). Prize awarded only upon presentation of this wrapper. Thousands of other prizes to win!

No purchase necessary. Suborbital space voyage valued at 147,000 euros as of August 2007, subject to technical feasibility and physical state of the winner.

There weren't any specifics, but I assume that Nestle's marketing department pre-booked a seat on Virgin Galactic, the first commercial spaceline--which is selling tickets at about that price (demo video here).

It really is an amazing world, isn't it?

Needless to say, I didn't win.

[Images of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo not mine, obviously]


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