Check out these headlines about the $349 million wasted building a 300-foot-high, steel-frame tower that would have been used to test rockets had it not been shut down immediately upon completion:
Notice that I was careful not to use the word “NASA” in my search — the headline writers all put it in for me. All. Every last one. NASA’s tower. NASA spent. NASA wasted. NASA’s drift. You get the idea:
NASA. NASA. NASA.
The tower is a giant ode to an agency that has lost its “sense of purpose,” says a former No. 2* at the agency, painting the picture of an agency adrift like George Clooney without a tether. All-around distressing news for those of us who cheer for Americans to do cool things along the final frontier.
*Not as in pencil — the space pen story is rated FALSE by Snopes — but maybe more like the other kind of No. 2.
Now let’s check out what actually happened:
The tower was designed to test a GenCorp Inc. (GY) engine for a rocket program canceled in 2010. Its funding survived thanks to Mississippi Republican senators led by Roger Wicker, who crafted a provision requiring the agency to complete the work.
So the project is actually a monument to Congressional dysfunction — and I imagine, given its shape, that’s not the only kind — that has very little to do with NASA at all. But we don’t need another headline to tell us Congress is broken because anyone who can read already knows that. So as part of an effort to pique your interest, we end up with a raft of misleading (copycat?) headlines like the ones I shared above.
Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you the media is broken, too.