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.