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This Simple Programing Error Cost NASA $18 Million – SlashGear



This Simple Programing Error Cost NASA $18 Million - SlashGear

In the summer of 1962, NASA launched the Mariner 1 Mission, an unmanned mission where the agency would fly by Venus and probe for data (via Wired). This craft was propelled into the air from a launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Real Engineering notes that these Mariner rockets were built with two overlapping systems for guidance. The rate system and the track system would operate simultaneously to provide real-time telemetry data and govern the rocket’s continued ascent out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space. But the rate system failed early in the flight, and a coding error in the governing track system program created an erratic flight path that led NASA engineers to abort the mission (via Wired).

Engineers at that time typically wrote out their coding work on physical paper, according to Real Engineering. These codes were then translated through a complex system into computer-readable cards. The computer then executed the program. The laborious nature of this manual system made the capacity mistakes high, and this is exactly what happened with the Mariner 1 launch. The track system should have executed on an averaging of velocity, but a missing symbol, a hyphen, according to NASA, doomed the rocket to shift in its programmed positioning and ultimately led to a total mission loss.

NASA reported that the failed mission cost roughly $18 million at the time (via Fast Company), which equates to a total bill of around $150 million in today’s dollars!

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