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$158Million Mistake (pounds And Newtons)

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Posted by Alexander on February 13, 2001 15:47:56 UTC

Yes, a year ago $158,000,000 Mars probe approaching the Red planet was by mistake directed not at high altitude orbit (150 km), but much lower(50 km) and burned.

The reason why the command sent from Earth to the prob's truster to adjust the orbit was wrong is that the group which calculated needed trust did that in units of POUNDS (!). The pound is a unit of force from the ancient English system, which is still in use only in the USA - the rest of the world uses metric system since long ago, even Great Britan itself. The command group did not convert trust into NEWTONS which is the unit of force in metric system.

So the needed trust impulse (Force x time) was then calculated wrong, and this wrong impulse value was sent to the probe, and soon the $158M space probe plunged on high speed into the dense lower Marsian atmosphere and "successfully" desintegrated. :-(

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