Artist's depiction of the Mars Climate Orbiter.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
NASA Loses Climate Orbiter (Updated!)
News story originally written on October 4, 1999
The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter has turned into a nightmare for NASA. The agency says an error in measurements caused the disaster.
The problem occurred when a team at Lockheed Martin submitted acceleration data in pounds of force. Unfortunately, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory assumed the numbers were in metric newtons. In other words, there was a mistake made in the units.
``It was embedded in the system from the beginning,'' said Tom
Gavin, deputy director of JPL's space and Earth science program. ``We're
still looking at why it was not detected.''
The spacecraft was lost when it flew too close to the Red Planet. It was supposed to study Mars' climate for 687 days. Scientists believe the orbiter burned up in Mars' atmosphere.
You might also be interested in:
Cross your fingers! The Mars Polar Lander is scheduled to meet the Red Planet on December 3, 1999. Unlike the Mars Climate Orbiter, which would have orbited Mars, the Polar Lander will actually land on...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more