February 24th, 2009

tachikoma: broken

OCO is a no-go

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory was lost early this morning. The capsule holding the satellite failed to open during launch, and the entire assembly fell into the ocean.

A video of the launch can be viewed here.

A great many friends and colleagues of mine and omniana's worked on this mission. It was supposed to help study climate change by providing accurate measurements of carbon dioxide sources and sinks on the planet. They had been working on it before my time at JPL (2002 to 2004), which gives you some idea of the time scale on which scientists and engineers prepare for space missions. I've been lucky enough since I started in this field to work on missions that have already succeeded in reaching their orbits and providing usable data, but if I stay in it, I know the chances are that I'll invest years in preparing for a mission that fails at launch.

I'm quite upset about this. I can only imagine how my friends must feel today.