On December 3, 1999, Mars Climate Orbiter was lost on arrival. The NASA robotic space probe weighing 338 kg valued $327.6 million. The main reason for this probe’s failure was a software error that failed in translating British units into metric units. The result triggered the probe’s de-orbit and its subsequent disintegration in Mars’ upper atmosphere.
In its report on the mission, NASA highlighted several contributing factors that may have led to the failure of the mission. One of these factors is the failure to detect errors. As a result, it was impossible to detect errors, especially in predicting small thruster firings and how they got transferred to the spacecraft. There was inadequate consideration of the entire mission and its post-launch operation as a total system. To address this, leadership is crucial in setting mission goals, objectives, and how to get there.
The second factor is inconsistency in communications and training within the project.
The team working on the operational navigation of the probe lacked adequate information on how the orbiter was pointed in space. This was especially so in comparison with details of the earlier launched Mars Global Surveyor mission. To address empowering open communication channels is essential to ensure an effective loop focused on solving problems and creating high products.
Third, some communication channels among project engineering groups were too informal. The project hence lacked adequate formalism. Address leadership is crucial in ensuring that the team focuses on the goal and that formality is enhanced.
Fourth, final testing was missed. For instance, no final engine firing test was done to raise the spacecraft’s path relative to Mars before its arrival.
It was avoided for several independent reasons. To address this, NASA should have a quality control team whose main role is to ensure that the final product meets the specification before it is launched.
Fifth, a weakness in the system engineering function of the problem handles tracking and double-checking all interconnected aspects of the mission. As a result, the new multi-mission operations team failed to ensure that all worked well. To adore inspection is very important. It helloes in varying and checking to ensure that all project elements are working as required.
Sixth poor personnel management led to inefficiencies and underperformance. The small mission navigation team was oversubscribed, and its work did not receive peer review by independent experts. Motivation is crucial in addressing this issue by aligning the team’s skills to high performance.
Seventh poor training of the personnel. The employees lacked adequate training in core areas, such as linking the mission operations with the detailed navigational characteristics. The personnel also could not link it to the process of filing formal anomaly reports. To address this, NASA should ensure that all employees working on any mission have been adequately trained. On-the-job training is an integral approach to enhancing competencies.
Lastly, weaknesses in the verification process. The process that is usually crucial in verifying and validating the critical engineering requirements and technical interfaces across the project teams, the project, and the main contractor was insufficient. Prices infection can help address this by assessing the quality of all processes involved in the final product by inspecting them, minimizing process bottlenecks, and reducing wasted resources.
It is essential to consider cost, time, skills available, and external pressure to implement these proposals. The adopted approach must ensure that it is both cost and time effacing. It must use the least resources in the short time possible. This is a circle as such missions are time-bound and run on shackled dates. The approaches must consider the availability of the skills and commences to implement them. This may also have cost implications. In addition, the approach must consider external organizational pressure, such as the mission goals that require specific quality standards. Therefore the approach must be implemented in a way meeting all these elements.
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