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How a Communication Mishap Cost NASA $125 Million

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Given the painstaking nature of NASA’s work, it might seem they’d be safe from the kind of bad communication mishaps that can befall a business. In reality, it’s precisely because of their highly valuable equipment that even small errors can turn into big losses.

In one case, those losses amounted to over $100 million and a priceless learning opportunity. Climate Orbiter, a $125 million spacecraft, was designed to collect information about Mars’ water history and any life that may have existed there. 

On the day it was set to enter Mars’ orbit, the spacecraft’s engine fired, but the craft missed its intended destination. It then continued out beyond Mars for parts unknown, irretrievably lost.

Poor Communication Worsens Minor Errors
Investigation into the loss showed the failure stemmed from an ordinary communication mishap.

NASA, like most scientific agencies, uses the metric system exclusively. The Lockheed Martin engineering team that also worked on the Climate Orbiter used the English system. As a result, the navigation commands for the Climate Orbiter’s thrusters were in English units, throwing off the craft’s ability to navigate.

Although it’s easy to place the blame on Lockheed Martin, the real issue isn’t about whose measurement system is better, but about why the discrepancy wasn’t caught earlier.

To the special review board formed to investigate the loss, it’s clear the fault lies with a flaw in the end-to-end inspection process. John Casani, head of the review board, suggests the issue should have come to light when the engineers tested the craft’s navigation well before launch.

Protect Your Work From Human Error
If a communication mishap like this can happen at NASA, it can happen to anyone. Written communication weakened by confusing formatting, grammar errors, improperly used words , and misplaced punctuation puts your business at risk for serious loss.

While human errors like these aren’t totally preventable, it is possible to establish a system that catches errors before they can do damage.

To lean how you can tighten up your business writing for more effective, trouble-free communication, contact us at Hurley Write, Inc .

How a Communication Mishap Cost NASA $125 Million

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(503 Reviews)