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Scientist Accepts Blame for Satellite's Failure

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 7 -- A scientist at Utah State University (USU) is taking the blame for the recent failure of an $80 million NASA satellite mission. NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Explorer satellite, which carried a USU-built telescope on a four-month mission to study how stars and galaxies evolved, spun out of control shortly after its March 4 launch off the California coast.
Harry Ames of the school's Space Dynamics Laboratory said engineers have determined the cause of the satellite's failure. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, an unexpected power surge from a $2000 electronic circuit made the telescope cover pop off prematurely. Because USU engineers did not find the problem beforehand, Ames said, he is to blame for the failure of the mission. As the program manager and an SDL executive, I don't believe SDL should rely on anyone else ensuring that we're doing our job correctly, Ames said. In that respect, I personally accept accountability and responsibility for this failure. Ames noted that the power surge, which lasted a fortieth of a second, also went undetected in tests conducted by NASA engineers.

Photonics.com
Jun 1999
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