T-VEC Used to Find Mars Polar Lander Error
NASA started the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) project on February 7, 1994. On December 3, 1999 after the MPL had traveled 11 months and over 35 million miles, all contact with the craft was lost just 12 minutes from its scheduled landing on Mars. The MPL cost $165 million to develop and deploy. Could the crash have been prevented? Maybe.
In fewer that 24 hours, the T-VEC RAVE tools identified an error in the software controlling the MPL's landing procedures. This software monitored the touchdown legs of the craft and controlled the engine. It is believed this software falsely indicated the MPL had landed, while it was still 40 meters above Mar's surface. Consequently, the engine was shut down prematurely, and the craft crashed. This defect could have been identified and fixed with the RAVE tools, if the requirements for the landing features of the MPL had been modeled and tested early in the process.
See the full story in the September/October edition of STQE.