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'You Don't Know What You Don't Know'

'Landano's Principles' are seen as one means of imparting the wisdom of experience, success and misfortune to less seasoned engineers as they participate in new missions to Mars and elsewhere. The key to good decision-making in space engineering, he says is not only the knowledge gained in school, but the understanding that comes from the real-life experiences of working day-to-day on a flight mission.

As Whetsel puts it, "There's certain level of healthy paranoia I think it's important to keep. The people you really want on your team are the ones who are really bothered by things like 'Why does that telemetry point always read a little different from those other ones? Is that trying to tell me something?' Or 'What have I not tested. I know they say this will handle these five faults all the way out to this range, but which one breaks first? What if?' Those are the kinds of things you want questioned. But you have to have a balance where you aren't just accepting everything that comes your way or challenging everything, but knowing what to accept and what to challenge," Whetsel says.

"Then," says Landano, "when you get to be an older guy like me and other guys who've been through it two, three or even four or five times, we think we understand it. And then, we find out that in spite of all we think we know there are a whole bunch of things you don't know you don't know. They're the things that can kill you. Now you begin to get what you call wisdom. You've' been through it enough to say, 'You know, I'm not as smart as I think I am. I'd better have a way to deal with the things I don't know I don't know.'"

So how to accommodate for those things you don't know you don't know and still get a spacecraft to Mars? Landano's answer: "Margin, margin, margin."

<< Will it be 'Bolero' or Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate Factory?  

Full Text
Mars Mission Risks
    Earning a Degree from the School of Hard Knocks
    Mars: So Close, Yet So Far Away
    Mars Orbit Insertion: This IS Rocket Science
    Tapping the Aerobrake
    Will it be 'Bolero' or Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate Factory?
    'You Don't Know What You Don't Know'

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