Sometimes, when you fill a small metal capsule with rocket fuel, it explodes.
That seems to have happened last weekend, when SpaceX tried a static test of its Dragon 2 capsule. "Crew Dragon Capsule explodes," wrote Scientific American . Business Insider called it a "big explosion". Quarz said it was "blown up". There's even a grainy video of the test that seems to be showing a fireball.
But SpaceX? The company called it an "anomaly".
You would never know what happened if you read only the prepared statement of SpaceX that downplayed the apparent explosion as much as possible
" Today, SpaceX has conducted a series of engine tests on our test rig at Landing Zone 1in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Using a Crew Dragon test vehicle. The first tests were successfully completed, but the final test led to an anomaly on the test bench. Ensuring that our systems meet stringent safety standards and detecting anomalies like these before the flight is the main reason why we test. Our teams explore and work closely with our NASA partners. "
SpaceX is not the only space agency that uses" anomaly "to describe a spacecraft disruption. There are several instances where NASA has used the word to characterize launch problems or communications problems with spacecraft. However, we have not found an example where NASA said "anomaly" when it meant "explosion" – in this respect SpaceX stands alone. When something blows up, NASA says.
Perhaps the problem that led to an explosion was an "anomaly"; it would be confusing if it was expected. But the explosion itself? To call him anything else is a disadvantage.
Keep It Vague
Hey, we understand it. Explosions of spacecraft conjure images of tragedies: death, wasting money, abandoning research.
For a space leader, it makes sense to avoid this connotation. But if SpaceX insists on calling an explosion – apparently documented on video – an "anomaly", who will say when the company will blow it away, at this test or in future trials?
READ MORE: Smoke seen for miles when SpaceX Crew Dragon suffers an engine abnormality at Motor Can Canals & # 39; engine during test trial [ Florida Today  More Information on the Explosion: Update: Vid Seems to Expose SpaceX Capsule Explodes During the Test