Although the space shuttle has flown its last mission and a replacement won’t be around for a few years, NASA still has uses for rockets.
The space agency has tested its GENIE (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) suborbital rocket system at the Mojave Air and Space port in California. They’ve posted an impressive (and loud) video on YouTube showing the rocket tethered to a pole and able to move in different directions. Draper Laboratory designed the project, and no, I have no idea whether they sit around sipping whiskey or not.
The idea behind GENIE is that NASA wants to be able to test instruments that they plan to launch into space under conditions that would be similar to those experienced on an actual space launch. Rovers and satellites are delicate, and if they want to make sure they’ll actually survive the trip into space. It’s a lot cheaper to use something like this on the Earth than a real live spaceship. If a piece of equipment has a few kinks to be worked out, it’s better to find out while it can still be redesigned rather than suffer an embarrassing and expensive failure on the ground, like they’ve done on several Mars rover missions. This is especially important when you know that NASA often faces budget cuts.