Of Mars Probes and Apricots

I read recently in Sky & Telescope that NASA thinks they now understand how we lost the Mars Polar Lander back in December of 1999.

During its final descent to the surface, the landing rockets fired at the right time and the correct altitude, but they cut off prematurely. NASA believes the jolt from a landing leg deployment may have caused the probe to think it had landed, which then terminated the burn early. The net effect was that, after having travelled all the way from Earth, the probe dropped the final 130 feet to the surface, never to be heard from again. Fini!

Anyone who has been to a supermarket can sympathize with this situation. All the care and technology used by the growers in picking and shipping your favorite fruits to your local market, all the time you take to select those perfect specimens. It all comes to nought at the last moment when the lame-assed bagger drops your perfect apricots the final 12 inches into the bag, bruising them without remorse. Mission failure.



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Josh Simons

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