The Big Cost of Software Bugs

By Jordan Robertson, Marcus Chan and Mark Milian - 2012-08-03T19:53:28Z

Illustration by NASA

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Hyphen Havoc

The Mariner 1 spacecraft, on a Venus flyby mission in 1962, barely made it past Cape Canaveral when a software-coding error caused the rocket to veer dangerously off-course, threatening to crash back to earth. Alarmed NASA engineers on the ground issued a self-destruct command less than 5 minutes after takeoff. A review board later determined that the omission of a hyphen in coded computer instructions allowed the transmission of incorrect guidance signals to the spacecraft. The cost for the rocket was reportedly more than $18 million at the time.