Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mars Miscalculation (1999)

Dry Bones Golden OldieMars Miscalculation (1999) Dry Bones cartoon - .
Today's Golden Oldie is from October, 1999.
Ten years ago this month.
The story that prompted the cartoon?
Here's how it was reported in the LA Times:

Mars Probe Lost Due to Simple Math Error
By Robert Lee Hotz
October 01, 1999 in print edition A-1

"NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.

A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the metric system of millimeters and meters in its calculations, while Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, which designed and built the spacecraft, provided crucial acceleration data in the English system of inches, feet and pounds.

As a result, JPL engineers mistook acceleration readings measured in English units of pound-seconds for a metric measure of force called newton-seconds.

In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

“That is so dumb,” said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University’s space policy institute. “There seems to have emerged over the past couple of years a systematic problem in the space community of insufficient attention to detail.” -more

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Speaking of Golden Oldies, I just gave some Dry Bones stuff to Ofer Berenstein who is is a founding member of the Israeli Comic Book Readers and Collectors Society. He is a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and is off to spread the word about Israeli comic strips and comic books. His first stop, apparently is the Library of Congress. Yikes! You can read about it here.

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