In September 1999, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carried out a mission to the planet Mars called “Mars Climate“.
This project consisted of placing a probe in orbit around Mars to study its atmosphere and surface. The probe was a joint project between two large propulsion laboratories; one of the laboratories was the “Jet Propulsion Laboratory” in Pasadena, California, which used units of the “International System” (meters and kilograms) for all their calculations.
However, the other laboratory, belonging to the company “Lockheed Martin Astronautics” located in Denver, Colorado used the “Imperial System” for its calculations (feet and pounds). As a result, after starting the mission and finding itself in an orbit position with Mars, the probe did not have a correct reading of its position, weight, and acceleration, which made it impossible for it to enter the planet’s orbit correctly. The angle of entry was wrong and the probe ended by impacting on the surface of Mars. The engineering teams had completely forgotten to transform the units from one system to another, so that the probe had a unit reading in all its sensors, which would have guaranteed the success of the mission.
The anecdote continues to be one of the most shameful cases in the history of the exploration of our solar system and a clear example of the conflict that is part of the relationship between the different measurement systems.