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ISS De-Orbit Imminent if Occupants Don't Slim Down
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The International Space Station's orbit is running so low that flight controllers have instructed the two crewmen to cut back on calories, exercise more, even take up smoking, until a Russian supply ship can dock with the station and move it into a higher orbit. "The station is delicately balanced up there," explained Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space station program manager, "It's simple physics. If either of those guys hit 250 pounds that craft is coming down, and they won't even be able to fit in the escape module."

"I can quit eating any time I want to!"
-- Leroy Chiao, astronaut
Gerstenmaier estimated there should be enough food to last 7 to 14 days beyond Christmas Day, "But at the rate they're going, they'll empty the pantry in the next week. It's like they're addicted to food!" American astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, barely two months into their six-month stay aboard the space station, flatly deny any problem exists. "I can quit eating any time I want to," said Chiao via video uplink, "I just don't want to! It's boring up here, sampling a little Russian cuisine is all that stands between me and insanity."

"Why do you think we sent our guys up with chicken paste in a tube?" said retired NASA official Robert Kinichuck, "Webb always said, 'You put a man in a box for a week, he's gonna do nothin' but eat,' so he made sure they didn't have anything appetizing onboard. With today's gourmet fare, it's no wonder the boys are having trouble keepin' it off."

NASA and the Russian Space Agency were stunned to learn last week that the astronauts had begun digging into the 45-day food reserve -- which exists to protect against a delayed supply shipment -- in mid-November. "That's where they were hiding all the good stuff," defended Sharipov, "You can't expect a man to stare Chicken Kiev with Broccoli in the face and not eat it. Can you?"

The space agency, meanwhile, is drawing up plans to evacuate the orbiting outpost, in case the occupants balloon to the point of being unable to fit into the escape craft. "We're reviewing technical schematics, experimenting with our full-scale models here on the ground, we'll keep the guys safe. I just wish they'd take it more seriously," Gerstenmaier said.
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