NASA Space Crash Explained

May 17, 2006

dart_crash.jpg NASA finally has an explanation for a crash that took place between a robotic NASA spacecraft and an orbiting satellite. The DART spacecraft was attempting to demonstrate the simplicity and accuracy of "Autonomous Rendezvous Technology" when it crashed into a defunct Pentagon satellite last year. NASA previously concluded that DART had depleted its fuel reserves and was unable to avoid the collision, but they now know that DART's main navigation sensor assumed it was flying away from the satellite rather than violently into it. The $110 million failure has left DART and the satellite in orbit, although they will eventually burn up when they reenter the atmosphere. $110 million lost because a sensor got confused. I think it's finally time to reinstate monkey and dog astronauts, not only because they could easily solve a basic problem like this, but also because the idea that our skies could be littered with the carcasses of dead monkeys is one that I find extremely comforting. No wait, not comforting. Horrifying.


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