Lost In Space

A $1 billion satellite is gone, and so is another chunk of NASA's reputation

IF MARS OBSERVER WERE EVER GOING to speak again, it should have spoken to Michael Dean at 2:56 Pacific time last Wednesday afternoon. The 24-year-old flight controller is part of a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, that had been working day and night for nearly a week to rouse the mysteriously silent spacecraft. Now the only hope left was in the hands of Observer: its onboard computers had been programmed to phone home if the probe hadn't heard from Earth for five days, triggering an electronic blip that would appear on Dean's screen. Scientists could then...

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