The Mars Climate Orbiter was designed with three objectives in mind. 1) To study Martian weather, 2) To examine the water levels of the atmosphere, and 3) To pick up lots of rocks to sell in the NASA gift shop. After lift off, the spacecraft took more than nine months to reach the red planet, and when the Orbiter finally arrived it executed a sixteen minute-long engine burn. NASA scientists waited patiently for it to reestablish radio contact, but as the minutes gradually ticked on, it became obvious that something had gone horribly wrong.
The problem was discovered a few weeks later. The Mars Climate Orbiter hadn’t failed due to poor design, or cheap building material, or the orbital lasers set up by our space overlords. It met its dismal end because the computer software used by NASA failed to convert the measurement units into the metric system. This simple error caused the thrusters to push forward a little too much, prompting the spacecraft to enter at a lower orbit and disintegrate as a result. Next time, it might be better to get a seventh grade math class to check the data before embarking on a multi-million dollar enterprise.