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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: Lazy August Edition

As usual, the week's news produced plenty of excellent splats and we're late choosing the best one. We'll attribute our delay to the abundance of qualified candidates (though an abundance of happy hours may have had something to do with it).

The Olympic cup still runneth over with splats.  Athletic ones aside a few people begged us to honor NBC, which hit the wall in Week 1 of the Games with their Castro-like rationing of marquee event coverage.  In week two they kept sliding, compounding the felony of tape delay by forcing people to sit through endless fluff pieces to get to the most anticipated events.  We would understand if NBC aired these human interest pieces to pass the time during a weather delay, but when the delay is entirely man-made and its creator decides to prolong it just to keep people hanging on past 11 p.m., dedicated viewers with day jobs have found it tough to be patient.  Though the coverage fiasco has been an unexpected boon for the ailing U.S. toothpick industry, which has sold record numbers of eyelid-propping devices over the last two weeks.

But we're going to pass over NBC and the athletes. We think the most deserving recipient of this week's honor is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for sending a new rover to Mars.  NASA, the pioneer of American space exploration, knows a thing or two about splatting.  In that way it reminds us a bit of Ford Motors, another paragon of American invention.   While both entities have produced moments of world-changing, horizon-broadening innovation, each has cranked out some major clunkers, too. The Hubble Telescope, for example, turned out to be a very expensive intergalactic Pinto when NASA launched it in 1990.  After its pricey and very public splat the space agency poured significant resources into repairing the telescope.  NASA's efforts got the Hubble up to Escort levels in terms of mechanical soundness (and to Millennium Falcon levels in terms of price).  It has since become a pretty darned reliable apparatus.

Just last week, NASA sent a rover - the Curiosity - to Mars.  According to the agency it's the most complex spacecraft that's ever been sent there.  Tension was high as we watched in fear that they'd fire up a space Fiesta.   Yet not only did NASA launch and land the craft with spectacular precision, the thing seems to work, too.  It's being test-driven as we speak and early signs are that this baby is a Lincoln.  So NASA, step on up and claim your golden pancake. Sure, you've had a few splats over time, but at least you get up when you land on the new ground you're breaking.

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