Failure to Launch

Nine years of work - and $280 million - in the drink.

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Artist conception of the NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory
Nate Johnson

Nine years of work - and $280 million - in the drink.

Researchers hoping to monitor the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on a global scale are suffering a "huge disappointment" after a $280 million satellite didn't make it to orbit early this morning.  A cover used to protect the satelite during its launch failed to separate from the rocket, and the whole thing tumbled into the ocean near Antarctica.

This would have been our country's first satellite designed to monitor carbon dioxide levels from space.  The Japanese launched a related satellite last month.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain, there's another toll.  Such projects provide lots of work opportunities for researchers and research assistants.  Some of those folks would have pored over the volumes of data provided by that satellite for dissertations or for paychecks. They now find themselves looking for new research projects (or possibly new jobs!)

No word on if or when another satellite will be built and launched - or whether this will do anything to settle or enflame the raging global warming debate.


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