On July 22, 1962, at 9:20 PM, the Mariner I sat idly on its platform, ready to make history. After investing years of construction, calculation, and funding, NASA had high hopes that its rocket would successfully conduct a flyby survey of Venus, thus shifting the Space Race’s momentum back to the home front. In every way, it was poised to set a space travel precedent.
But when the rocket embarked, it was clear there’d be no cause for celebration: less than 5 minutes into flight, Mariner I exploded, setting back the U.S. government $80 million ($630 million in 2014 dollars). The root cause for this disaster? A lone omitted hyphen, somewhere deep in hand-transcribed mathematical code.