NASA lost the $125 million due to unit conversion fail


An interesting case of unit conversion error .

On September 23, 1999 NASA lost the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft after a 286-day journey to Mars. Miscalculations due to the use of English units instead of metric units apparently sent the craft slowly off course — 60 miles in all. Thrusters used to help point the spacecraft had, over the course of months, been fired incorrectly because data used to control the wheels were calculated in incorrect units. Lockheed Martin, which was performing the calculations, was sending thruster data in English units (pounds) to NASA, while NASA’s navigation team was expecting metric units (Newtons).

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