Benefits of Test Automation: $300 Million Lost Due to a Software Error

Kat Dacusin
June 25, 2019

What would you do with $300 Million? Save and invest? Buy a Buggati? Donate to charity? Certainly, wasting it away over a careless mistake is not what you have in mind. Yet this is exactly what NASA experienced with the failure of their Mars Climate Orbiter.


NASA’s Expensive, Irreversible Mistake

In 1998, NASA sent a rocket to Mars with the Mars Climate Orbiter as payload. As the probe was released and began its approach to Mars, a problem occurred. The thrusters were a lot stronger than calculated. Because of this, the Mars Climate Orbiter entered Mars at a wrong angle.

The result? The Climate Orbiter never touched Martian soil. $300 million dollars worth of equipment turned into nothing, either burning up in the atmosphere of Mars or was lost in space.

A Tiny Error Can Cause a Huge Failure

What caused this pricey mistake? A teeny-tiny error: difference in units in measurement.

One software was processing values in Newtons, while the other in Pounds. The two software were misinterpreting and miscommunicating values. As a result, there was an 80 to 90 Kilometers difference between the predicted and the actual altitudes.

To know the full story on the Mars Climate Orbiter and for more information on Test Automation, watch the video below.

Fear the Wrongly Tested Software

Even an organization as esteemed and meticulous as NASA can suffer the consequences of inadequate software testing. You can bet that your company is at risk as well.

Imagine your company’s masterpiece – the software to end all software.  You spent countless nights brainstorming and bringing it to life. Your best employees sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears for researching, creating, testing, and marketing the product.

This is your business’ hope. This product will give you a significant ROI. It will make your company famous.

In a snap, it all bursts into flames— all due to improper software testing.

What went wrong? This question should not only stop at whether your business performed testing. You should also ask whether testing was performed correctly, and as optimized as possible. And Test Automation can answer this question.

Test Automation: Hero Against Error

Have no idea what Test Automation is? It’s okay, we all start somewhere. Presumably, your company performs Manual Testing. In Manual Testing, tests are performed through human effort. With Test Automation, automation tools are used to execute tests.

How can Test Automation swoop in and protect your business from failure? Read below:

1. Escape Paying the High Price of Failure

As illustrated above in the story of the Mars Climate Orbiter, each mistake comes with a price tag.  

Can your business afford to fail?

As stated by Pointwest Testing Center of Excellence Head Kim Deloria in the Test Automation TechKapihan video, if NASA detected the error at any point before production, the cost for fixing the defect would have been lower or even non-existent.

If the defect was caught during launch, it probably would still be costly, but not as much as $300 Million. If the error was caught while coding, fixing it could only have cost some delay and additional man-hours. If the mistake was caught during documentation, it could have been caught through a mere conversation and therefore could have cost nothing.

Test Automation enables frequent and comprehensive testing, resulting in early detection of bugs. Through this, you can avoid bugs, be it something small that will only slow down the software a bit, or something huge that will crash the entire system.


“The sooner a software defect is caught, the less expensive it becomes to fix. Through Test Automation, testing can be performed early and frequently. The test scope is wider prior to release, reducing the cost of failure.”

— Kim Deloria

Head of Pointwest Testing Center of Excellence

2. Keep Customers Coming Back

I’m sure you have experienced using buggy software or a defective product. Between pulling your hair out in frustration and saying a lot of unmentionable things, you probably swore never to buy this product ever again.

You already know that the goal is to keep customers coming back, not keep them from coming back. Defective software will make customers switch to the competition, unless your software is their only choice. You were aiming to be your customer’s first priority. But because bugs turn off customers, your software is now considered as a last resort.

Buggy software is an unkept promise. Keep the customer’s trust through Test Automation.

How can Test Automation do this? Through Test Automation, you can maximize test coverage. This means scope remains complete even with the added features of the app in new releases. Full coverage means no nook or cranny of your software remains untested.

Test Automation also promotes accuracy. The judgment of test engineers can sometimes be accidentally compromised due to fatigue. Test Automation can test continuously without getting tired. Also, it is programmed to follow strict standards and instructions, avoiding human error.

3. Take Resource Productivity to the Next Level

Can you work 24/7 without a wink of sleep?

The reality is, it is neither possible nor advisable for test engineers (or any person, for that matter) to work nonstop.

This is where the benefits of Test Automation come in. With Test Automation, tools can execute tests round-the-clock, without rest, complaints, or even coffee.

Your business can attain the desired output with less input (time and effort). Thus, you can achieve productivity.


But Wait, Can’t Manual Testing Do the Same?

Testing Automation promotes proper testing, which is key to preventing software failure. If it’s all a matter of proper testing, can’t Manual Testing deliver the same quality as Test Automation?

YES and NO.

Yes, because if pushed to the limit, Manual Testing can come close to what Test Automation can do. But it will take so much manpower and hours (and more money to pay for these) to do so. What will take a couple of weeks for Test Automation may take months for Manual Testing. Manual Testing can take as little time as Test Automation only if the number of test engineers are significantly increased. This is not possible most of the time.

So ultimately, the answer is NO- Manual Testing cannot keep up with Automated Testing. Testing efforts do not exist in a vacuum; they are performed with deadlines, resources, industry demands, and other matters in mind.

If you want your testing efforts to achieve high-quality results while using as little time as possible, then Test Automation is for you.

Contact a Trusted Solutions Provider

The quality of automated tests depends on the skills of software developers who created them. That is why it is crucial to entrust your Test Automation endeavors to a solutions provider which has mastered their way around the technology, and can customize Test Automation according to your specific needs. Our experience was honed by performing Test Automation even in industries as critical as aviation.

Secure your systems now. Contact Pointwest for a free consultation.


About Pointwest

Founded in 2003 by pioneers of the Philippine Global Sourcing industry, Pointwest creates value for its list of satisfied clients — including top Fortune 100 and local companies — with world-class digital innovation and IT modernization services backed by international-standard methodologies, and innovative practices.

For Inquiries, contact us:

+632 814 1100 (Trunkline)

+1 (888) 210-9078 (US Toll-Free)