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Once again, NASA has made headlines, and you might be curious about what happened this time. Did they finally manage to go to the moon? Well, not quite. This time, the experts at NASA lost an $895 million dollar space probe that has been navigating outer space since 1977. Due to a programming error here on Earth, Voyager Two, the probe launched to study outer planets and interstellar space beyond the Sun’s heliosphere, has gone missing. Whoops.
NASA on Friday said it had lost contact with Voyager 2, located nearly 12.4 billion miles from Earth. Contact was disrupted when a series of planned commands on July 21 accidentally caused the antenna to point 2 degrees away from Earth, NASA said.
Now that the space agency has picked up a carrier signal, engineers will try to send Voyager 2 a command to point itself back at Earth, but if the command doesn’t work, it’s possible that communications won’t resume until mid-October.
A scheduled orientation reset is programmed for Oct. 15. NASA said it believes the orientation reset, which is designed to keep Voyager 2’s antenna pointed at Earth, should allow communication to resume. NASA believes the spacecraft will stay on its planned trajectory from now until Oct. 15.
Sadly, NASA is a place where failures turn out to be just as mesmerizing as successes. It’s like they have a special talent for making things go wrong. Who can forget the time they installed equipment backwards or when they couldn’t figure out the metric system? You’d think such an esteemed organization would get it right at least 99.9 percent of the time, right? No. Unfortunately, NASA keeps stumbling.
Meet Suzanne “Suzy” Todd the director of the Voyager 2 mission:
We at Revolver have chronicled the demise of NASA extensively, drawing particular attention to the new obsession with — you guessed it — diversity
Wired put together a pretty impressive list of NASA’s greatest flops. Here are a few of our favorites:
Mars Climate Orbiter:
description Six years after the Mars Observer disappeared, the Mars Climate Orbiter followed suit. This time, however, NASA knew what went wrong: Subcontracted engineers at Lockheed Martin used English units of measurement rather than the agency’s favored metric system. The ensuing navigational mix-up sent the vehicle into a low-altitude orbit, where it was torn apart by atmospheric stresses.
Meters of success and kilometers of confusion…
Mars Polar Lander:
description Finally: no mysterious silence, no goofball measurements! Nothing but 142 million miles of smooth sailing all the way from Earth to 40 meters above the red planet’s surface. That’s when the lander’s computers misinterpreted a routine vibration as evidence of touchdown, cut the descent engines and sent the craft plummeting to destruction. Says NASA historian Steven Dick, “An unconfirmed theory is that the Martian air defenses are pretty good!”
Hey, Frank, is that thingy on backwards?
description In September of 2004, NASA’s Genesis capsule returned to Earth with samples of solar wind – a stream of electrons and protons from which scientists hoped to tease the secrets of the sun and our solar system. It was supposed to parachute gently back to Earth, where a helicopter would snag it mid-air before any jarring impact could dislodge the precious solar particles. But the Genesis’ parachute failed to open, sending the craft and its ethereal cargo slamming straight into the Utah desert. Agency investigators later found that its deceleration sensors were installed backwards.
We don’t need no stinkin’ training…
description The DART – or Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology – was supposed to show off NASA’s navigational precision. It wouldn’t just hook up with another planet, but would dock with an orbiting communications satellite. This delicate dance turned destructive on its October 2004 test run, when DART collided with the satellite. NASA delayed its report for a year, then unleashed a scathing indictment citing a “lack of training and experience,” schedule pressure, bad software coding and breakdowns in responsibility.
Ah, those classic NASA blunders! And now, Voyager Two joins the list. But there’s been an update to this story. NASA is now claiming they picked up a faint “heartbeat” sound from Voyager. So, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope after all? Either way, it’s hard to ignore NASA’s well-earned reputation as the biggest goofballs in the galaxy.