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A Simple Math Mistake Once Cost NASA $193M

The scientists at NASA may be some of the brightest, most brilliant brains we have on this planet, but even they make mistakes too.

It’s impossible to forget what may be NASA’s biggest blunder of all time: a simple error that caused the loss of a space satellite that cost $193 million in total.

The satellite was supposed to be used on the first long term study on weather on Mars, which happened almost exactly two decades ago, in 1999. The Mars Orbiter was sent to orbit to gather data on weather-related events on the Red Planet. Unfortunately, due to a rather simple math-related mix-up, the satellite was irrevocably lost.

NASA used the imperial system of measurement to compute the satellite’s supposed trajectory; however, the other team mistakenly thought that it was in the metric system. NASA immediately tried to remedy this error, but the probe was already missing. Reports say that it was probably burned up once it entered Mars’ atmosphere by mistake.

Worse, the mistake was only discovered 9 months after it was launched into space. By that time, it was already more than 100 miles out of orbit, making it impossible at the time to reverse it.

Looks like even the best of the best can make mistakes sometimes!

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