4. A code error destroyed a NASA rocket
Typos have caused cringeworthy expensive mistakes on more than one occasion – and one of the most memorable was back in 1962, with the launch of the Mariner 1, a NASA rocket. After years of investment – and jousting with the USSR over who could claim the title of victor of the then Space Race, NASA hoped the rocket launch would reposition the USA as the world leaders in space.
NASA bosses decided that Mariner 1 would carry out a flyby survey of Venus that would set an amazing new landmark for space travel – and there had been years of research, calculations, and checks performed to prepare for the flight. However, no one was quite prepared for what happened next – 5 minutes after its launch Mariner 1 exploded, and $80 million of the US Government’s money promptly went up in smoke!
When NASA chiefs investigated what had caused the problem, we bet they wanted to kick themselves – the omission of a single hyphen embedded deep in Mariner 1’s code, which was transcribed by hand, was found to be the reason the rocket didn’t complete its course.