Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hutchison's "Heavy Loss" Vehicle

President John F. Kennedy says the Saturn I will fire the largest "payroll" into space, November 21, 1963.

It's one of the most famous Freudian slips in history.

President John F. Kennedy was speaking at the Houston Coliseum, on November 21, 1963. It was at a banquet for Houston Democratic congressman Albert Thomas.

Kennedy had just visited Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where he saw the Saturn I and was told that for the first time the United States would have a more powerful booster than the Soviet Union.

Impressed by what he'd seen, Kennedy chose to tell the audience about its pending launch.

Next month, when the United States of America fires the largest booster in the history of the world into space giving us the lead, fires the largest payroll, payload, into space, giving us the lead ... It will be the largest payroll, too.

[Pause for laughter and applause.]

And, uh, who should know that better than Houston?

History repeated itself yesterday, when Texas Republican senator Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke on the Senate floor after a press conference announcing the design for the Space Launch System.

The SLS has been dubbed the "Senate Launch System" by critics, because Hutchison and other senators designed the vehicle and ordered NASA to build it primarily to employ people in their states.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison speaks on the Senate floor, September 14, 2011.

Hutchison slipped and called the SLS a "heavy-loss vehicle" when she meant "heavy-launch vehicle":

We had all the relevant people in the loop on this issue because we wanted to be sure that Congress and the Administration are on the same goal with a timeline to achieve that goal. What worried us about the delays were the loss of cost efficiencies and the loss of the experienced personnel to design that new heavy-loss, uh, launch vehicle.

The comments are at about the 2:40 mark in the above video clip.

Some have suggested that Kennedy's Freudian slip was intentional to get a laugh. Almost no one was in the Senate chamber when Hutchison spoke, and it's doubtful that those who see SLS as a boondoggle program would see the humor in her misspeech.

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