The Mars Observer is launched. The Observer is designed to provide an extremely detailed mapping of the entire surface of Mars using the latest technology, including short laser bursts bounced off the surface for pin-point accuracy. Originally, NASA has no plans to put a camera on board. Why? Nonetheless, scientists fight NASA like cats and dogs. They win and an innovative new system of cameras is installed.
August 21, 1994
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory loses contact with Mars Observer just hours before it was scheduled to begin orbiting the Red Planet. This was the first failure of its kind in seventeen years. Several different reasons are given for the loss of the Observer, but no really knows why. The Mars Observer is never heard from again.
January 14, 1994
A NASA investigatory panel announces, “No one will probably ever know exactly what happened to the spacecraft.” The panel’s attempt to understand the Observer’s silence was hindered because the spacecraft telemetry was turned off before the pressurization of its fuel tanks as it prepared to enter orbit around Mars.
Turkish TURKSAT I and BULSAT I communications satellites are lost when a French Ariane launch vehicle’s third-stage propulsion system fails.
China loses its Apstar-2 satellite when launch vehicle explodes. Hughes Space and Communications Company and Great Wall Industrial Corporation disagree as to the cause of the explosion.
United States satellite NOAA 13 vanishes from orbit.
November 17, 1995
Russia’s Mars space probe is lost when a booster malfunctions and falls back to earth carrying 270 grams of live plutonium. Two years later, health officials attribute a worldwide increase in lung cancer rates to highly active radioactive material being disbursed into the atmosphere from falling and disintegrating satellites.
November 22, 1995
Two Russian spy satellites are announced to have been lost by the Russian Embassy. (Don’t you just love it, both the U.S. and Russia now “announce” the launching of “spy” satellites?)
Launch of Athena rocket from Vandenderg Air Force Base fails.
The Cosmos 1275 satellite disintegrates. The crash is attributed to a collision with space debris.
Lewis satellite fails after being launched from Vandenberg on an Athena rocket.
December 25, 1997
The final booster on a Russian-made Proton-K rocket fails. The “communications” satellite it was carrying falls into an orbit of only 125 miles up instead of the 22,500 mile-high orbit it was planned for. The lower orbit makes the satellite totally useless and subject to falling into the atmosphere and burning up.