...how engineers protect their spacecraft from failing? (with Tracy Drain)
Play • 30 min

We are wrapping up our series on space exploration, with an inside look at what makes a mission to space successful. Have you ever been on a road trip, only to have your car break down and leave you stranded out in the middle of nowhere? Imagine how much worse that would be if you were on your way to the Moon, Mars, or even Jupiter! But going to space is hard, and even with teams of top engineers and scientists working together, sometimes things can go wrong. 

Do you ever wonder how engineers protect their spacecraft from failing?

We spoke with Tracy Drain, a flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She tells us how to use a “fault tree” to guard against failure, both before you put your spacecraft on a rocket for launch, and once it reaches its destination. Tracy has lots of experience doing this, working on teams like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and most recently Europa Clipper. One of my favorite parts of this interview is when Tracy describes how the Juno and Europa Clipper spacecrafts have to survive in the intense and enormous donut of radiation around Jupiter

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