Planet of Death: guilty people do?

29.12.2003

29.12.2003


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Three Martian probe should begin work on the surface of the Red Planet. Their creators seem to have every reason to be confident that this time everything will be fine. Excitation of the public and the scientific community is growing. Some NASA officials allegedly campaigning to "lower expectations." This is no accident — it is not just the same way astronomers named the planet Mars death.

NASA representatives emphasize that two-thirds of Mars missions have ended in failure. However, dumping the responsibility on external forces, NASA underestimates its responsibility for the numerous failures of the past. The analysis shows that the reasons for the failure of Mars expeditions were almost always of the earth — they are rooted in the minds of the management style and people involved in their preparation. The roots of past failures are surprisingly similar to the "vicious process of decision-making" that killed shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In both cases, led to trouble the whole complex of reasons: lack of funding, the procedural lapses and wishful thinking. Are all the lessons learned now? What are the chances of success of future projects?

• Mars Polar Lander was supposed to land in the polar caps of Mars in 1999
No one has any doubt that the Martian expedition in technical terms — the most difficult of all, faced with what is still space program. He further from the Sun and receives almost half of the solar energy per share of our planet. Expeditions have to be very long, and the accuracy of management — the maximum. After some unforeseen circumstances may occur at any time.

Since the beginning of the space race (in the 60-70s of the 20th century) to Mars, NASA has launched a total of 10 ships (including two pairs of orbital and launching vehicles). Two of them were lost due to problems at startup, and from the other eight all successfully reached the goal. None of the eight had not fallen victim to "the planet of death," they all worked.

But in the 1990s, it is management's fault, not challenges Mars or carelessness of any of the workers, led to the failure of new expeditions. For a time, while at the head of NASA was Dan Goldin, who demanded miracles from the space agency savings were lost five spaceships. The first victim was the ill-fated Mars Observer, launched in 1992 — the first U.S. spacecraft Mars after a successful expedition "Viking", carried out during the 18 years before that. Communication with him was lost in just three days before the scheduled release on the Martian orbit. A year later, the investigation revealed that the most likely cause of the failure was the break valve fuel vehicle systems. Through these tears for 11 months of travel could leak large amounts of fuel, enough to blow up the ship. The gap could be because for the trip to Mars in order to save money NASA has used recycled rocket, commonly used for putting satellites into geostationary orbit. Typically, these missiles make a six-hour flight, and are not well suited for almost a year-long journey in space.

Nevertheless, NASA repeated the same mistake five years later. The fuel system of the probe Mars Polar Lander was also based on a military rocket, and the ship at the end of 1999 also disappeared at the end of their journey. The investigation found that "there were serious errors in the design of the engine, which remained unnoticed until the very start." Two triggers the unit who were on the ship, too, had disappeared; commission to investigate the incident found so many flaws in their device, which makes it difficult to say what could be the most probable cause of the accident.

Experts have repeatedly said that NASA is not required in such complex missions double-checking system — it simply allocated resources. The same, apparently, was the cause of death of another probe — Mars Climate Orbiter, which was lost as soon as you arrive to Mars in the same 1999. To save money, NASA personnel refused to double-check on the assumption that workers at assembly unit does not have to make any mistakes. When the error (which was to be "should not", but they were naturally) resulted in a flight to significant deviations from the course, the team that ruled the mission does not have the resources to investigate the causes. Therefore, it was assumed that all goes with tolerances from the original plan, and the probe crashed into the planet.

The developers of the last two expeditions, say they have removed all possible lessons from past defeats and "did everything humanly possible to reduce the risk and increase the likelihood of success." Let's hope that's true. After all, the real lesson of Mars is that he does not like slackers and fools — but generously rewards diligence, accuracy and honesty.

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