Episode - 1F13
First Aired - 2/24/1994At 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 Tim "The Toolman" Taylor and Al Bundy than a space launch, so they decide to put an average man on an upcoming space mission. Homer 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 instantly becomes drunk and 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 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."
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