An Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman was launched Wednesday afternoon, boosting a Cygnus spacecraft with 3.4 tons of cargo towards the International Space Station. The launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, went flawlessly, and the spacecraft arrived at the station on Friday.
However, when NASA's International Space Station program posted its launch video on its Facebook page in Thursday, there was a problem. Apparently, the agency's caption service had not yet gotten this video clip, so viewers with captions enabled were treated not only to the launch of the rocket, but the Facebook's automatically generated crazywords glory. As of Thursday morning, 86,995 people watched the Facebook video.
Some of the captions are just hilariously bad. For example, when the announcer triumphantly declares, "And we have liftoff of the Antares NG-11 mission to the ISS," the automatically generated headline service says helpfully, "And we have lifted the guitarist G11 mission to the ice sets. "
Now, you might note-right-that there is a lot of jargon within that single statement at liftoff. After all, the announcer uses the relatively unknown name of the rocket, "Antares," along with the abbreviation "NG-11" for Northrop Grumman's 11th supply mission to the station, and "ISS" for the International Space Station. But YouTube's auto-caption service did not seem to have a problem with those bits of space.
And there is more than 1 minute, 20 second clip on NASA's Facebook page, which some commenters definitely noticed. Scott McKee will helpfully invite other viewers to "Play it without sound and we have the launch of the Guitarist G11 mission. Rock on NASA!"
We definitely think captions on videos are very useful things. Some people just prefer written text – but most importantly, captions will improve accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. But when the captions are this bad they're essentially worthless.
As Facebook aspires to put its own rival to Alexa in the AI voice assistant market, perhaps The company should begin by improving its lousy auto-caption bots.
Listing image by NASA