Research NewsAstrometry

A Mapmaker That Was Nearly Lost

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Science  21 Feb 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5303, pp. 1065
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5303.1065

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After a perfect launch on 8 August 1989, one of the European satellite Hipparcos's onboard motors failed, and the satellite ended up in a highly elliptical rather than a geostationary orbit. Mission controllers managed to save the situation by rewriting software and enlisting the help of additional ground stations, and the satellite survived 4 years, enough to gather a full set of data. However, astronomers still had to endure 3 years of data processing before getting their hands on a single piece of data.