Fact Check: Does a NASA Cloud-Making Machine Cause Floods?

A TikTok video that claims to explain how NASA uses a cloud machine to cause flooding has gone viral.

The video shows clouds of water vapor billowing out of a large NASA structure as people look on from a distance.

The Claim

On July 25 a TikTok user posted footage of a large machine, with a NASA logo on the side, churning out what appears to be a huge amount of white clouds.

The text overlaying the video says: "This is how NASA causes your floods." The video was posted with the hashtag #cloudmachine.

The video had been viewed more than 400,000 times as of July 27. Google Trends data showed there was an increase in search terms such as "NASA cloud making machine" the day after the video was published.

Claims of a similar nature have been made in recent years. A Verge article from 2018 reported that a video titled "Artificial Clouds Generation System," which also showed a NASA machine being tested, was circulating on Facebook at the time and had been shared over 350,000 times.

The Facts

The TikTok video does not show a NASA cloud machine, as the hashtag and text on the video imply.

The video is actually NASA footage of the space agency's RS-25 rocket engine being tested in October, 2017, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The original footage shared on NASA's YouTube channel can be seen below.

The RS-25 is one of the engines that will be used on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, due to make its first flight later this year.

Contrary to the TikTok post's implication, the video footage does not show a NASA cloud machine deliberately influencing the weather.

The second part of the claim to be addressed is whether the rocket engine could create a flood.

The RS-25 engine uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel. When these two are combined, it creates H2O as an exhaust product, also known as water.

So it is not inaccurate to say that the RS-25 produces clouds. This effect is exaggerated in the video because NASA pumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of water into the path of the exhaust plume in order to dampen the sound it produces, creating even more clouds of water vapor.

An example of this water pump in action can be seen more clearly in this video of an RS-25 engine test published by NASA in May, before the engine switches on.

It is also possible that the water vapor produced by the RS-25 engine tests could produce rain, NASA told Newsweek.

But this effect is limited and local, meaning it would not be linked to widespread flooding in areas away from the Stennis test site.

The space agency told Newsweek: "When the hot exhaust mixes with the water, it creates steam that rises into the atmosphere, forming a cloud that subsequently cools.

"Depending on the temperature and humidity at the time of the test, this cloud of steam condenses into water and falls in a very limited and localized area. The steam released during a test is water and does not pollute the atmosphere."

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

NASA has not created a giant machine that is purpose-built to generate clouds or floods.

NASA has built a rocket engine capable of generating water vapor and potentially rain, but this is a byproduct of the engine and not its purpose. It is also not true that this could cause extensive flooding since the effect is limited and localized.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

NASA rocket engine test
A photo shows an RS-25 rocket engine test being carried out at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi in January 2021. The engine produces clouds of water vapor. Robert Markowitz/NASA / Getty