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A sad but cautionary tale February 24, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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NASA‘s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, an Earth-observation satellite designed to measure in detail the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and study sinks and sources of the gas, crashed into the Antarctic following a failed launch attempt this morning. This is a blow to NASA and climate scientists worldwide, who were looking forward to the data from OCO to help understand how natural and human processes affect climate change processes. NASA blogged the launch live, and the minimal text I’m sure belies the anxiety the scientists and engineers must have been feeling. The cause of the crash was the failure of the payload protective cover to separate from the satellite. The satellite couldn’t reach its orbit and fell back down to Earth.

OCO’s loss is a stark reminder that launching stuff into space is still a pretty risky undertaking, With several high-profile astronomy launches coming up in the next 2 months (Kepler, Herschel and Planck), astronomers will be anxious for the safety of our own spacecraft. Fingers crossed!

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