Learning From Failure: How A Failed Mars Landing Sparked Innovation

by | Nov 12, 2016 | Cool Stuff

Last month, a European probe called Schiaparelli crashed into the surface of Mars. The probe’s descent to the surface of Mars didn’t exactly go how scientists wanted it to. The retrorockets, which are designed to slow the descent, only fired for a few seconds rather than half a minute. In addition to that, the parachute designed to further decrease the speed of the descent jettisoned too early.

The systems and technologies on the probe failed to slow the descent of the probe causing it to crash land on the surface of Mars.The scientists at the European Space Agency failed at landing on Mars because of the failed parachute and thrusters.

Failure Leads to Learning

The encouraging part of this “failed” mission to Mars is the fact that the scientists involved aren’t giving up. In fact, they’re using the failure to learn and make an even better attempt:

  • Scientists plan to analyze the telemetry transmitted from the probe before the crash landing. By doing this, they’ll be able to adjust settings, technologies, and systems to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen in the future.
  • They’ll analyze the problem from the parachute and thrusters to understand how high the probe was when each event occurred. By knowing how high the probe was, the scientists can get a better understanding of the situation and assess what the issue was with the landing.
  • Ultimately, the scientists will establish a timeline that shows what stage in the descent sequence the probe went into a freefall and how fast it was traveling when it crashed. Knowing this timeline will help the scientists keep a closer eye on the probe the next time they attempt to land on Mars. During the descent of the next probe, they’ll know when the problems started during the last descent and know what to look for with the current one.

Learning from Failure

Without a doubt, the scientists involved in this mission were disappointed when their probe came crashing down instead of carefully landing on the surface of Mars. But, they aren’t letting the “failure” keep them down. Instead, they’re learning from failure and their mistakes and adjusting processes and systems for future landings. Ultimately, the failure will become part of the larger journey of success.

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