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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers
Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
P2K: So in other words, the Mars Exploration Rovers mission was approved as a "legacy" project and it turned into something not quite a legacy...?
Pete Theisinger: I think we all thought there would be much more heritage, in terms of the actual hardware. There is still heritage in terms of the architecture and the landing system and the sequence of events for the landing looks just like Pathfinder. But in terms of the actual "touch and feely" equipment I think there was... we felt there would be much more heritage than in fact it was possible to preserve.
P2K: One of the things (Pathfinder Project Manager) Tony Spear and people working for him, always said was that by the time of the landing they were pretty secure that they had done enough tests, had not skipped on anything... that they thought it would be OK. Do you see enough time, and enough money, and enough people to do all the tests that you would like to do, to be absolutely sure by the time you launch and get to Mars it's going to work right?
Pete Theisinger: We are absolutely adamant about that. We are beyond committed about that. The lessons... the recent lessons of the space program are that you cannot scrimp, take any short cuts in terms of the verification, and validation program, in terms of the test program. So we have allocated time. We are doing double shifting of people: we're going to be doing two 8-hour shifts to in fact preserve all the tests that have to be done to give us very high confidence that this will work as we have designed it, and as we intend it to work. The EDL system, although we've used that in Pathfinder, we are treating that as a brand new development, and we're going through the same validation tests that we would have done, had we never done this before. So we are very firm on the adequacy of the test program. And um... There will always questions at the end about, you know, making the trades necessary as the schedule pressures (sic, "pressures" as a verb), or whatever... but we've got an incompressible test list that we're developing, and we're not going to waver on that.