Alex Morales
Bloomberg
February 24, 2009

A satellite launched from California failed to reach orbit today, crashing into the sea near Antarctica and dooming a $273 million mission to study global-warming gases.

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“The mission is lost,” National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Steve Cole said in a telephone interview from the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The NASA satellite was to orbit 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth and observe how carbon dioxide enters and leaves the atmosphere, helping scientists predict future increases in the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. Instead, the satellite fell in the ocean near Antarctica though the mission manager said at no point did the craft pass over land.

“It’s a huge disappointment for the entire team who have worked very hard for years and years and years,” NASA Launch Director Chuck Dovale said in a briefing from California. “Even when you do your very best, you can still fail.”

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