IT SEEMS to be a jinxed programme for the National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA) in the us. While its first effort to deploy a satellite in space as part of the Tethered Satellite System - a joint us-Italian venture - ended unsuccessfully after the tether got jammed, this time, the satellite decided to go its own way after the tether connecting it to the main shuttle, Columbia, mysteriously snapped on February 26.

Embarassed us and Italian researchers are still wondering how the half-tonne satellite costing us $440 million went spiralling into oblivion along with 19 km of jumbled tether, lost forever. The project involved two purposes: to test a new way of generating electricity in space which could act as a power source for spacecrafts and to investigate Columbia's ability to tow payloads through space. The accident occured as the Columbian crew consisting of four Americans, two Italians and one Swiss astronaut, were in the process of unreeling the satellite from the 13 m telescopic launching boom.

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