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NASA’s $349 million monument to its drift

NASA s 349 million monument to its drift The Washington Post


The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse.

The empty tower in Mississippi is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve. In the Space Race days of the 1960s, the agency was given a clear, galvanizing mission: reach the moon within the decade. In less than seven, NASA got it done.

Now, NASA has become a symbol of something else: what happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade.

GRAPHIC: NASA's mothballed test towers

NASA tower of waste

Stashed in: NASA, NASA to Me, Mississippi

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Still, what a waste.

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