Mars Climate Orbiter lost.....

Brian D Williams (
Fri, 24 Sep 1999 07:35:04 -0700 (PDT)

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To: <undisclosed-recipients:;>
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 1999 2:16 PM Subject: NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter believed to be lost

> PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 23, 1999
> NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter is believed to be lost due to a
> suspected navigation error.
> Early this morning at about 2 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time the
> orbiter fired its main engine to go into orbit around the planet.
> All the information coming from the spacecraft leading up to that
> point looked normal. The engine burn began as planned five
> minutes before the spacecraft passed behind the planet as seen
> from Earth. Flight controllers did not detect a signal when the
> spacecraft was expected to come out from behind the planet.
> "We had planned to approach the planet at an altitude of
> about 150 kilometers (93 miles). We thought we were doing that,
> but upon review of the last six to eight hours of data leading up
> to arrival, we saw indications that the actual approach altitude
> had been much lower. It appears that the actual altitude was
> about 60 kilometers (37 miles). We are still trying to figure out
> why that happened," said Richard Cook, project manager for the
> Mars Surveyor Operations Project at NASA's Jet Propulsion
> Laboratory. "We believe that the minimum survivable altitude for
> the spacecraft would have been 85 kilometers (53 miles)."
> "If in fact we have lost the spacecraft it is very serious,
> but it is not devastating to the Mars Surveyor Program as a
> whole. The program is flexible enough to allow us to recover the
> science return of Mars Climate Orbiter on a future mission. This
> is not necessarily science lost; it is science delayed," said Dr.
> Carl Pilcher, science director for Solar System Exploration at
> NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "We have a robust program to
> explore Mars that involves launching on average one mission per
> year for at least a decade. It began with the launch of Mars
> Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor in 1996, continued with Mars
> Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander and will be followed by
> more missions in 2001, 2003 and 2005. In fact, Mars Polar Lander
> will arrive in just over two months and its mission is completely
> independent of the Mars Climate Orbiter. The science return of
> that mission won't be affected."
> Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
> Pasadena, CA and Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, CO will
> continue their efforts to locate the spacecraft through the Deep
> Space Network during the next several hours. A special
> investigation team has been formed by JPL to further assess the
> situation.
> Mars Climate Orbiter is one of a series of missions in a
> long-term program of Mars exploration known as the Mars Surveyor
> Program that is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for
> NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is a
> division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
> #####
> MH 99-080 9/23/99
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