Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Mars Observer findings released


  • M. Catherine White


A fixed-price contract, poor management, and faulty design of the Mars Observer's propulsion system were most likely at fault for the spacecraft's August 21 failure, according to the Mars Observer Mission Failure Investigation Board. Timothy Coffey, chairman of the investigation board and director of research, Naval Research Laboratory, presented the review board's findings in a January 5 press conference in Washington, D.C.

After developing and assessing sixty scenarios, the board concluded that the loss of contact with the spacecraft was probably caused by a massive failure of the pressurization side of the craft's propulsion system. Wesley Huntress, Jr., associate administrator, Office of Space Science, NASA, said that an internal NASA review board, created to prevent the likelihood of future spacecraft failures, has reached the same conclusion.