3. Examples of past failures in data management

Expected learning outcome for this Part Understanding the ease of errors
Level of advancement of this Part Beginner
Approximate time to complete this Part 12 min.

Data standards appeared as a necessity when early space experiments became unusable because of clumsy formatting or absence of a specific data management plan, the example shown here have been chosen because they have at least been documented in publicly accessible documents. Unfortunately, the cases are much more frequent and go from procedural errors, for example forgetting the instruction to removeĀ  an optical instrument protective cover at installation or to switch on an internal switch, errors also happen when the wrong level of digitisation at sensor level is applied. All of those can be corrected through correct phasing at testing, integration and instrument commissioning. These correct procedures in phases C and D can then be supplemented by an equally well tested data management plan after the data have been acquired in flight.

Examples of past failures in data management deal with historical failures where the scientific objectives of a project could not be met in time or even were never attained due to an insufficient preflight study of data flow and distribution. From a managerial point of view, they represent a loss of the expected return on investment. From a scientific point of view, they are irreversible as a later observation cannot compensate for the lost data. All examples come from NASA as mission review and debrief are complete and easily accessible, which is unfortunately not always the case for other space agencies. The reader is invited to pause after each case and think of a possible past or present action to solve the problems.