Another error in spaceflight

‘This is another error in spaceflight’. This is what I heard a NASA Planetary Scientist saying on the radio one morning recently. She was talking about the previous day’s unexpectedly short maiden flight by SpaceX’s new rocket Starship.  

The rocket exploded just a few minutes into the flight, so ‘error’ might seem like the right word to use. But what she actually said was ‘This is another era in spaceflight’. Luckily, her pronunciation of ‘era’ didn’t surprise me, because I have heard this before and commented on it at  https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/12/another-error/

What is success?

Because I’d heard this pronunciation before, it didn’t surprise me, unlike something else the Planetary Scientist said. She described the launch as a success. She said that SpaceX and Nasa will have learnt a lot from this mission. I see that a BBC reporter is also quoting Elon Musk (SpaceX’s founder) as saying that the mission was a success because it didn’t destroy the launch pad. Some material on the SpaceX website makes a similar point.

I think the launch was indeed progress in the project to develop this type of rocket. But it seems over the top to use the word success to describe a launch that ended in the rocket exploding.  

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *