Episode - 1F13\\
First Aired - 2/24/1994

At the weekly Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Employee of the Week ceremony, Homer, having never received even such a trivial award, states that plant regulations dictate that he is to receive the award at least once, is confident that he will win this weeks' award. Mr. Burns, however, gives the award to an "inanimate carbon rod" for no reason. Feeling dejected, Homer watches TV, and stumbling across the live shuttle launch which he finds very boring, decides to go to Moe's.

Meanwhile, NASA is frustrated over a decline in ratings for the space shuttle launches, and discover that people would rather watch sitcoms about blue collar slobs like [[HomeImprovement Tim "The Toolman" Taylor]] and [[MarriedWithChildren Al Bundy]] than a space launch, so they decide to put an average man on an upcoming space mission. Homer [[ContrivedCoincidence calls them to complain at that very moment]], and exhibits their idea of an 'everyman', and they decide to send him into space. When the NASA guys show up at the bar looking for the man who called them Homer blames Barney, thinking he's in trouble. When they tell Barney that they want to make him an astronaut, Homer realizes that this could be a way to make everybody finally respect him. So he does a 180, admits to calling NASA, hoping to be shot into space. They decide to test both Barney and Homer for the mission.

The decision is eventually made to send Barney, who, up to this point has been sober due an alcohol ban, on a mission with Buzz Aldrin and Race Banyon, but while toasting the moment (with non-alcoholic champagne), Barney [[CantGetAwayWithNuthin instantly becomes drunk]] and [[ItMakesSenseInContext crashes a jetpack onto the roof of a pillow factory, then falls onto a road and is run over by a marshmallow truck.]] Homer is then declared winner by default.

After the launch, Homer opens a bag of potato chips in zero gravity, and the chips spread around the cabin. Homer then floats around to eat the chips, but breaks an ant farm experiment, spreading ants around and shorting out the navigation system. James Taylor, in Houston to play a song for the crew, suggests they create a vacuum to get rid of both the ants and potato chips. In the process, Homer is sucked out of the shuttle, but gets pulled back in by Aldrin and Banyon, breaking the door's hatch in the process. Banyon is finally out of patience with Homer and is ready to beat him up for dooming them all, but Homer grabs an inanimate carbon rod and pulls it back to swing at Banyon--only for it to lodge in the door. As Homer tries to pull the rod free, Buzz tells him that it might hold the door shut and allow them all to survive. After considering this for a moment, Homer goes back to trying to pull the rod free so he can bash Banyon with it, but is dragged away from it by the other two astronauts.

The shuttle doesn't burn up on re-entry and lands safely (in the middle of a media convention). After the astronauts exit and take questions from reporters, Buzz credits Homer with saving the mission. But the reporters praise the [[CrackDefeat inanimate carbon rod]], and a ticker tape parade is held in the rod's honor. Back at home, Homer is depressed over the incident and Bart is writing a word on the back of his head like he did earlier in the episode...this time reading "Hero."

!!This episode contains examples of:
* ActuallyPrettyFunny: Marge admonishes Bart for writing "Insert brain here" on the back of Homer's head...and then starts to laugh at it.
* AsHimself: Buzz Aldrin; James Taylor
* BigNo: In slow motion, no less.
* BigShutUp
* BrickJoke: Homer losing to a carbon rod.
** Bart drawing on Homer's head.
* CrackDefeat: See BrickJoke above.
* EpicFail
** Barney gets drunk on non-alcoholic champagne.
** Homer loses his "Employee of the Month" award to an inanimate carbon rod, despite being the only employee to not win it.
* {{Homage}}:
** ''ASpaceOdyssey'';
** ''Franchise/StarTrek'';
** ''Film/{{Alien}}'';
** ''Film/TheRightStuff''
** NASA watches ''HomeImprovement'' (which has Tim Allen run over his neighbor Wilson after charging up his riding mower) and ''MarriedWithChildren'' (where Peg once again begs Al for sex, Al says no, and flushes a toilet right next to him) to show the committee what people like to watch these days;
** Homer hopes they don't land on ''PlanetOfTheApes'', then figures out the ending.
** During one of the tests, when Homer said he couldn't take it anymore, his face was looking like [[{{Popeye}} Popeye's]].
* KentBrockmanNews: A classic example, where Kent Brockman, after seeing an ant float past the news camera, overreacts and immediately assumes a race of 'space ants' has enslaved the crew and is about to take over earth, then apologizes after someone presumably has a talk with him.
* LampshadeHanging: Homer somehow knows the number to NASA and the White House. He tells him to shut up when they asked how did he got their number.
* TheLastHorseCrossesTheFinishLine: It took Homer ''30 years'' to figure out the twist ending to ''PlanetOfTheApes'' (despite that in the 1980s, he knew the ending to the second ''Franchise/StarWars'' movie [that Darth Vader is Luke's father] and spoiled the ending for everyone else). While it can be excused that Homer only heard of ''Planet of the Apes'' and never knew the ending (or only saw it because it had monkeys in it), it's more believable to think that Homer is such an out-of-touch idiot that he doesn't know the ending to that movie.
* NewJobEpisode
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: Homer constantly.
* PublicDomainSoundtrack: Homer's floating around eating the chips is scored with "The Blue Danube Waltz."
* TheQuisling: Kent Brockman. [[MemeticMutation "And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords"]].
* TakingYouWithMe. After Homer breaks the handle on the shuttle. Banyon proclaims if he dies he's taking Homer to Hell with him.
* TooDumbToLive: According to Marge, Homer had trouble using a touch-tone phone when they first met -- and he still does.
** Even though Buzz points out the rod can hold the door for them to return to Earth, Homer tries to pull it out, still wanting to bash Banyon.
* YouFool: "Now we may never know if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space!"
* YourTelevisionHatesYou: After losing to the rod at work and being ridiculed by his family, a depressed Homer decides to watch TV, saying: "TV respects me. It laughs ''with'' me, not ''at'' me." He turns it on and sees a man pointing at the camera, laughing, and saying: "You stupid..."