NASA is supposed to build machines that launch into space, not structures that stay grounded on Earth and send spending into the stratosphere.
But that is exactly what is happening this year as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration completes the $350 million rocket-engine testing A-3 tower at its research facility in Mississippi. There is just one problem: The space exploration agency doesn’t want it.
Instead, NASA is forced to complete the project — which now won’t be put to use — because of legislation handed down from Congress in what critics say is a classic example of earmarking.
NASA does not expect to use the tower after construction but is compelled by legislation from Sen. Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Republican, who wants to ensure the project is completed.