News of the WeekPlanetary Science

No Easy Answers in Mars Probe's Fiery Death

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Science  01 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5437, pp. 18
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5437.18a

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Did the world's best spacecraft navigation team simply miss? When the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft, scheduled to enter orbit last week for a 2-year mission to study martian weather, dipped too far into the atmosphere on its arrival last week and perished, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, pointed a finger at the lab's navigation experts. Yet some outsiders suspect that may not be the full explanation, noting that the team has been unfailingly flawless in shepherding spacecraft to their destinations.