Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
5 JULY 2004
Q40 Dr Turner: What effect do you think
it might have had on the technical development work that went
into the project, and therefore the potential for success of the
project if the funding had not been on such a "catch as catch
can" basis? If you had a clearer idea of where your funding
was coming from at an earlier stage, would the development of
the project have been very different?
Professor Pillinger: I think we
would have retired risks earlier if we had had early money. That
is what space missions are all about. You can design on a piece
of paper and work out what will work theoretically, but the way
in which you can demonstrate it will work will be to do a test;
and tests do not always have to work to be valuable. Tests that
do not work can be just as valuable as those that do because they
give you the limitations of your technology. It was particularly
important in Beagle that we had a few tests that failed, because
we were always capped in terms of mass, and if we found ourselves
having to revise one part of the system without a mass margin
somewhere else, we have to know where we could take mass away
from, because we would be staying within the bounds of our tests.
Q41 Dr Turner: How much did it affect
the consortium when Martin Baker withdrew?
Professor Pillinger: It certainly
affected the consortium in the sense that Astrium had to take
on an area in which they were lacking in experience, but nevertheless
they were so committed to this project that they were prepared
to learn this technology and learn it fast. It is a tribute to
Astrium that they did take this on. They were so dedicated to
Mr Rickett: I was actively involved
with that decision, and I would say that it did not have a material
impact on the programme; in fact if anything it was a positive
impact at the end of the day. The so-called withdrawal was not
a withdrawal at all; it was just that the two brothers, John and
Jim, who run Martin Baker, made it very clear to me in a number
of personal meetings that they saw space as a peripheral business.
Their business is ejection seats, and they were not in the business
to invest in this programme. They did not see a future in it.
But, on the other hand, they did not wish ill of it and they were
very clear that they would allow us to use their people and their
expertise beyond their fundamental withdrawal in terms of their
personal support. We actually used the Martin Baker expertise.
We put a manager in and used exactly the same building; and we
also used the expertise of their suppliers because a lot of the
IPR and entry and descent landing system was really in their suppliers,
as opposed to Martin Baker himself.
Q42 Dr Turner: This is a fixed price
contract. Did that not expose you to a lot of risks? What were
the economic costs of the work that you did?
Mr Rickett: I do not think I can
comment on the specific amounts we are talking about, but certainly
we did take on risk. As with all programmes where you take on
fixed price, you look at the risks and list and monitor them and
put in place mitigating actions to reduce the impacts of those
risks, should they materialise.
Dr Healy: It is true to say in
this contract though that when we took on the firm fixed price
contract there were constraints on how we would manage that risk,
in terms of the mass and volume constraints that we were given.
That did mean that we probably took on more risks commercially
than in the cold light of day we might have done. In the end,
we finished up over budgetit cost us more to do than we
envisaged at that time. From a purely commercial point of view,
this probably was not a great contract for us.
Q43 Chairman: How much?
Dr Healy: We overspent by about
£1.5 million, compared to the fixed price contract we had;
so that was no profit; that was just pure overspend.
Q44 Paul Farrelly: I just wanted to go
back to the entry descent and lander systems because we have heard
the concerns that are being expressed through the NASA review.
We have just heard that you have got involved with a company that
then made it clear that "it is not actually part of our business".
NASA and other agencies must have people they deal with all the
time. I am somewhat confused as to why you got yourself into this
Dr Healy: The simple fact is that
we were using sub-contractors on NASA programmes, so we novated
the contracts, the ones that Martin Baker had; and we took those
over. So they are with two suppliers in the US that supply into
NASA programmes. In fact we were using the NASA expertise that
had been developed for landing on Mars to reduce that risk.
Professor Pillinger: Perhaps I
can clarify something here. Martin Baker were the holders of the
contract from ESA to build the entry systems for the Huyens probe,
which is on its way to Saturn. We will not know whether that works
until just after Christmas. We brought Martin Baker in after they
volunteered to join the Beagle project because they thought that
they were going to expand into the space business. It transpires
that half-way through the project they had a change of heart.
As Mike Rickett mentioned, there were two twins that ran this
company, but they had very different views on space, and one wants
to and the other one does not.
Q45 Paul Farrelly: So you did take on
a company for which space was a curiosity value.
Professor Pillinger: No, we took
on a company that was tying to break into this business. They
did a very high-profile job with the European Space Agency, giving
them credibility; so they were absolutely right for us, and they
had all the sub-contractors in the US that we wanted to use.
Dr Healy: When we took on the
Martin Baker contract and we looked back at our systems design
with the information that we then had directly from the suppliers,
there were fundamental flaws in that design which we had to resolve.
That was part of the risk that we did not really completely expect
when we took the firm fixed price contract on, which led to the
re-design of the parachute that Colin mentioned.
Q46 Bob Spink: It is our job, as a committee,
as you understand, to ask tough and provocative questions, but
I, certainly, and many of the members of this Committee, recognise
your enthusiasm, creativity and resourcefulness in pursuing this
very exciting project. You would have to have no heart and no
curiosity not to want such projects to go ahead and succeed. That
is what we are really about. I tell you that so I can get your
goodwill right at the start, because I need it because I have
got two or three minutes and I want to tackle some of the engineering
and science issues. If we can get short, snappy answers, I have
a whole list of things I want to try and get through. What further
tests should have been performed on the lander before it was deployed?
What additional tests should have been made?
Dr Healy: There were no additional
tests that we thought necessary. I think if you ask any engineer
whether they would like to do more testing, the answer is always
Q47 Bob Spink: What were the main constraintsmoney,
time, facilities or engineering and science expertise?
Professor Pillinger: I think that
the main constraint was that we did not have the priority that
we would have liked in this mission.
Q48 Bob Spink: Was it a mistake not to
programme at the start of the project the full costs and time
required for all the various testing that needed to be done?
Dr Sims: When we started the project,
I should say we did it on a formal work breakdown structure, I
am trying to get round the perception of it being amateurish;
it was always done on a full work breakdown structure. It is fair
to say that we all had great difficulty estimating the initial
costs. As time went on, we hit development problems and it was
only natural that those costs would rise. In hindsight, we were
under-estimating the amount of testing and the amount of development
we needed to do. At the time we started the project back in 1997,
we thought a lot of this technology would be off the shelf from
American missions, and in reality it was not. It all had to be
designed for Beagle 2 specifically, and the constraints then,
which were mass and volume.
Q49 Bob Spink: Did you use CPA techniques,
modelling, at the beginningcritical path analysis and
Dr Sims: Oh, yes. There was always
a formal schedule, which was revised throughout the programme.
Q50 Bob Spink: Was the lack of high altitude
balloon test a serious mistake?
Professor Pillinger: No. NASA
did not do high altitude balloon tests with MER-A or with Pathfinder
as far as I know.
Q51 Bob Spink: Do you think that the
EDL systems were robust enough?
Dr Healy: We would have loved
to have done end-to-end testing, but it is a bit difficult to
simulate the Martian environment, so you are always going to make
compromises. But at the end of the day the Commission spent three
months going through in detail, and as far as I am aware they
could not find any design flaw that we had. So even though a number
of decisions were made under quite a lot of time pressure, when
we have looked back at that, we still think the decisions were
the right ones.
Professor Pillinger: No-one could
find something that could not or should not have worked.
Q52 Bob Spink: What additional facilities
would you have liked there to have been on Beagle 2?
Dr Healy: The trouble is, you
need mass, then you need volume, and you need things for communication
telemetry whilst going through the lander sequence. That would
have been very helpful to have, but we would have needed 5 kilogrammes
more mass and a completely differently planned mission, because
you need to communicate to something that was not there.
Q53 Bob Spink: What is your hunch on
what went wrong? What do you think happened in a nutshell? It
is guesswork, but
Professor Pillinger: I prefer
to believe that the atmosphere was thinner than we anticipated
and it was outside the models that we used.
Q54 Bob Spink: So it went faster and
hit the ground harder.
Professor Pillinger: It went faster
than it should have done. That is the only thing for which we
have any evidence.
Q55 Bob Spink: Would a communication
system, back to Mars Express
Professor Pillinger: It would
have told us whether that was true.
Q56 Bob Spink: Do you think that the
single biggest mistake was not to have that communication system
in, with the mass on one side?
Professor Pillinger: No, because
what was the point of spending 5 kilogrammes for something that
could not communicate?
Dr Sims: The problem was there
was no asset to receive that signal either.
Professor Pillinger: That would
have been 5 kilogrammes totally wasted.
Dr Healy: You would have had to
have changed the complete Mars Express mission in order to communicate
with Mars Express, because Mars Express was the wrong side of
the planet when Beagle was landing.
Professor Pillinger: Mars Express
could not turn to look at us anyway.
Q57 Bob Spink: What part did ESA play
in the lack of a communication system?
Professor Pillinger: The decision
regarding the Mars Express entry was taken in 1998 so it was well
known long before we ever got to Mars that Mars Express could
not listen to us for ten days.
Bob Spink: Thank you. I am finished now,
Chairman. Good luck with the next project.
Q58 Chairman: Was the 60-kilogramme limit
a real problem to make it successful?
Dr Healy: Yes.
Q59 Chairman: That was a terrible decision.
You were handicapped by that.
Professor Pillinger: It was not
just the 60-kilogramme