We learned from Scotty on Star Trek that the best way for an engineer on a star ship to be seen as a ‘miracle worker’ is to greatly inflate the estimated time needed to actually accomplish something, such that when one finishes before the expected time it will be a ‘miracle’.
I wonder if NASA does this very thing when they plan/report missions. Case in point, the Mars Ingenuity drone recently completed its 13th flight. The flight was a few hundred meters distance. I saw an article where the author states:
“The mission’s planners don’t know how long the plucky vehicle will last, because it has far out-lived its design lifetime, so they’re just enjoying the ride.”
I don’t mean to take anything away from the amazing achievement of flying a drone on a planet located millions of miles away, but 13 short flights doesn’t sound like very many flights to me. Indeed, some of the flights consisted of little more than getting the rotors to spin and elevating a few meters simply to test components. Inexpensive drones here on earth could log scores of these sorts of short flights before failing. Why such low projections of success and short design lifetimes?
Ingenuity is hardly the only NASA project to do this. Does NASA intentionally set the bar low on mission expectations for funding reasons so they can claim wild successes when things merely go as planned or expected?