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FWD: [UASR] Mars Climate Orbiter Team Finds Likely Cause Of Loss

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  • Frits Westra
    Posted by : [UASR] Perry J. van den BrinkDouglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC Sept. 30, 1999 (Phone:
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 1999
      Posted by : "[UASR]>Perry J. van den Brink" <owner-uasr@...>

      Douglas Isbell
      Headquarters, Washington, DC Sept. 30, 1999
      (Phone: 202/358-1753)

      Mary Hardin
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
      (Phone: 818/354-5011)

      Joan Underwood
      Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO
      (Phone: 303/971-7398)

      RELEASE 99-113


      A failure to recognize and correct an error in a transfer of
      information between the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft team in
      Colorado and the mission navigation team in California led to the
      loss of the spacecraft last week, preliminary findings by NASA's
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory internal peer review indicate.

      "People sometimes make errors," said Dr. Edward Weiler,
      NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science. "The problem
      here was not the error, it was the failure of NASA's systems
      engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes to
      detect the error. That's why we lost the spacecraft."

      The peer review preliminary findings indicate that one team
      used English units (e.g., inches, feet and pounds) while the other
      used metric units for a key spacecraft operation. This
      information was critical to the maneuvers required to place the
      spacecraft in the proper Mars orbit.

      "Our inability to recognize and correct this simple error
      has had major implications," said Dr. Edward Stone, director of
      the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We have underway a thorough
      investigation to understand this issue."

      Two separate review committees have already been formed to
      investigate the loss of Mars Climate Orbiter: an internal JPL peer
      group and a special review board of JPL and outside experts. An
      independent NASA failure review board will be formed shortly.

      "Our clear short-term goal is to maximize the likelihood of a
      successful landing of the Mars Polar Lander on December 3," said
      Weiler. "The lessons from these reviews will be applied across the
      board in the future."

      Mars Climate Orbiter was one of a series of missions in a
      long-term program of Mars exploration managed by the Jet
      Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science,
      Washington, DC. JPL's industrial partner is Lockheed Martin
      Astronautics, Denver, CO. JPL is a division of the California
      Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.
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