NASA And Fake News

12Aug18

Radio newsreaders are rubbish when it comes to reporting about Space.

Yesterday I heard a news presenter on a commercial station say, “It’s back to the drawing board for Nasa”. Immediately I thought that something catastrophic had happened to the rocket that was due to carry the Parker Solar Probe into space. It turned out the launch was cancelled due to a glitch. It eventually lifted off on its mission to the sun less than 24 hours later, hardly “back to the drawing board”. It’s no different than any vehicle that doesn’t leave on time, it just leaves at a different time. When a train is cancelled, Thameslink don’t get a team of engineers in to redesign the train from scratch!

It’s not the first time I’ve heard a confusing news report on the radio about a launch. A few months ago I heard that a rocket had lifted off from “The Kennedy Centre”. I thought that’s odd, I didn’t know that they fired rockets into space from The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Why would NASA move it’s launch site 866 miles to a theatre complex in Washington DC from their usual launch facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida, (The Kennedy Space Centre)?

Another time, I heard a BBC radio newsreader explain that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic was going to “blast space tourists into orbit”. A quick check on Wikipedia and she would have found out that Virgin Galactic, “aims to provide SUBORBITAL flights to space tourists”.

I was once told by a senior news person at the BBC that the reason why science is reported so badly in the media is that most people who go into journalism are arts graduates.

I just hope that the news presenter I heard reporting on the launch of the probe to the sun realises that it will still make it, even though it was launched at night.

Craic on!

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