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Space Bloopers: 11 Embarrassing Moments For NASA, ESA, Other Space Agencies (PHOTOS)

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SPACE BLOOPERS
Artist's conception of NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter. The craft never made it to Mars, burning up in the atmosphere on the day it was supposed to enter orbit. | NASA

Spaceflight is inherently risky, and success is never assured. Case in point: on Tuesday an unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft failed in its attempt to dock with the International Space Station, the Associated Press reported. The craft was expected to try again on Sunday, after engineers try to figure out what went wrong.

Embarrassing? Yes. But in the 55 years since Sputnik blasted into orbit to inaugurate the space age, space agencies have endured bigger black eyes.

Leaving aside fatal accidents like the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, NASA has weathered some very embarrassing moments: Satellites that inexplicably fell silent. Unmanned spacecraft that became marooned in orbit--or crashed to earth. Craft that returned safely to earth--only to be lost at sea. Planetary probes that...well, you get the picture.

And if NASA has gotten its share of shiners (along with many glorious successes), so have other national space agencies. The European Space Agency (ESA), the Soviet Union (and now Russia), Japan, South Korea, and North Korea have all had their own embarrassments.

Want to see the biggest space agency black eyes ever? Keep clicking to see our fascinating photo gallery...

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to the Challenger and Discovery disasters. In fact, it was the shuttle Columbia, not Discovery, that was lost.

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