'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,"
"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
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."