How much can a silly mistake in math cost? 125 million dollars, to be precise!

How many decimetre is 3 foot?

Ok, so you probably got that right. Bravo. If you didn’t, you have something to be proud of – a flaw common with a top braniac at NASA whose grade-school math error cost NASA 125 million dollars.

This happened in 1999 – so it’s not breaking news.  A Mars orbiter that Lockheed Martin (an American global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company) designed for NASA was lost in space due to a simple miscalculation. It so happened that the engineers at Lockheed used imperial measurements while the NASA employees use metric ones.

The mismatch led to the thrust not receiving vital navigation information which caused the 125 million dollar spacecraft to malfunction. The orbiter was forever lost while trying to get into orbit around Mars after a 286 day journey.

Reportedly, there were numerous occasions where the error could have been caught.

Old news or not, 17 years later the incident still serves to give hope to those whose mathematical skill does not always hit the bulls eye. Even the smartest people are not above goofing up once in a while – though it could cost them a fortune!

Leave a comment!

Leave a Comment