“It’s a real loss, we had a lot of people working a lot of long hours and then to have it fail is devastating,” said Bill Possel, Director of Mission Operations at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado.
Possel headed a team that was ready to operate a LASP built climate research instrument if it had reached orbit. But it never got that far.
Launches are the most dangerous time for space missions.
Five minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base California, the Glory Spacecraft failed and went crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
“Pretty much when it hits the ocean it disintegrates and it is in pieces,” said Dr. Thomas Woods, LASP’s Associate Director of Technical Divisions. “People who put their time and energy into it are just sad.”
The instrument was designed to do two things. It represented the next generation of solar monitoring. Additionally, it was a new and supposedly better way to analyze manmade particles called aerosols.
Replacing the lost equipment won’t be easy. The entire mission carried a price tag of $424 million.
“There are options to possibly build another, however, as you’ve probably heard, NASA budgets are being cut especially in earth science and climate areas,” said Woods.
A team of 60 CU scientists, engineers, technicians and programmers worked on the project for the better part of five years. How do they recover?
“It’s difficult,” admitted Possel.
He said researchers will be putting all their attention on an older satellite already in orbit.
“They need to baby it,” said Possel.
The new mission is to keep the older satellite working longer so it makes up for the lost spacecraft.