This artist’s concept features NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Ron Lipinski has to imagine everything that can go wrong in a system. When he’s examining the Mars Curiosity Rover’s plutonium power generator, or a safety analysis for the Kennedy Space Center, a lot can be at stake.

Lipinski is the team leader for the Mars Science Laboratory Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermal Generator team. For his work at Sandia National Laboratories, he and his team were given national Secretary of Energy Achievement Awards.

“We look at the probabilities of all the different accidents that could happen. Because each event can happen at a particular time and a different way, we simulate the trajectory of a launch,” Lipinski said. “There are parameters that represent those times and ways, and we randomly select each of these every time we run the code. We run the code more than a million times, so we build up a large statistical database.”

The award is bestowed upon a group or team of Department of Energy employees who together accomplished significant achievements on behalf of the department.

Read the rest of the article at New Mexico Business Weekly.

Read the Sandia news release.