A rocket carrying a NASA satellite crashed near Antarctica after a failed launch early yesterday, ending a $280 million mission to track global warming from space. The rocket carrying the Orbiting Carbon Observatory blasted off just before 2am from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. But minutes later a cover protecting the satellite during launch failed to separate from the rocket, a preliminary investigation found.
The 986-pound satellite was supposed to be placed into a polar orbit 400 miles high to track carbon dioxide emissions. The project was 9 years in the making, and the mission was supposed to last 2 years. "Certainly for the science community it's a huge disappointment," said a project manager for the rocket and satellite. "It's taken so long to get here."