New York Times
ROBERT MACKEY and LIAM STACK
A group of Egyptian activists who reluctantly endorsed Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election, and have been bitterly disappointed by his performance in office, are again urging their fellow citizens to cast a vote for him. This time, however, a victory for Mr. Morsi would send him not to the presidential palace, but into space.
The scheme, unveiled Thursday by members of the April 6 Youth Movement, is to garner enough support in an online competition to win Mr. Morsi a trip to space sponsored by the deodorant company Axe. According to a description of the plan on the group’s Facebook page, it is a “popular campaign to send Morsi behind the sun,” which is a play on an Arabic expression that means “to make someone disappear.”
In support of the effort, the activists provided a link to the Axe Apollo Space Academy site and wrote, “We made an account for President Morsi on this Web site and it he gets your vote he will travel to the moon and govern them there.” By Friday, the update had attracted more than 450,000 Facebook likes and generated enough votes to propel Mr. Morsi to the top of the contest’s leader board.
In an update on Friday evening, the April 6 activists urged their 449,000 Twitter followers: “Vote now and don’t delay! Morsi needs 1,400 votes to go into first place in the contest. #SendMorsiToTheMoon”
Two hours later, the Cairo blogger Mahmoud Salem, who writes as Sandmonkey, exulted over the news that Mr. Morsi was winning the contest.
Strangely, a YouTube video explaining the contest makes no mention at all of whether contestants who win the online ballot could be compelled to complete the rigorous preflight training in Orlando, Fla., and the journey into space. Unlike Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Morsi has not asked to be sent into space recently, but late last year he did express a fondness for the 1960s science-fiction fantasy “Planet of the Apes,” which is about the misadventures of an American astronaut.
As the English-language news site Ahram Online explained, the activists described a trip to space as a fitting way to get rid of Mr. Morsi since his supporters once claimed that he had worked for NASA while studying engineering at the University of Southern California. Mr. Morsi himself said in a recent television interview that he was never employed by the American space agency and had never claimed otherwise.
Last month, however, as the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported, footage of Mr. Morsi making just such a claim was discovered and broadcast on another Egyptian television channel. According to a recording of that program posted online with English subtitles by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI— an Arabic media watchdog founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer — Mr. Morsi was caught on video saying that he had worked “as a consultant for NASA, in the field of spaceship engines.”