On September 23, 1999, NASA’s $193 million Mars Climate Orbiter was obliterated 57km above the surface of Mars.
What caused such a catastrophic event? Badly implemented processes.
“The problem here was not the error; it was the failure of NASA’s systems engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes, to detect the error. That’s why we lost the spacecraft.”
—Edward Weiler, NASA associate administrator for space science
Despite all of NASA’s precautions, preparatory research and technical developments, the deviation from standard procedure for making sure their units were consistently imperial or metric was what resulted in the disastrous calculation error responsible for the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter, and in turn huge amounts of time, money, and material resources.