Why test in-the-wild? So you can tell if your product is literally going to crash and burn. That’s what happened to NASA’s Project Morpheus on its first untethered test flight. From engadget:
The experimental lander suffered a hardware component failure, which NASA says “prevented it from maintaining stable flight.” This caused it to crash into the ground and well, explode.
But NASA wasn’t concerned. In fact, they specifically test out in the field with the expectation that something will go wrong. That way, they can make future projects better from the get go. You got to hand it to NASA, they really do understand testing!
On the upside, the space agency says that these kinds of failures were anticipated, stating that they are a normal part of the development process and will be used to build better systems moving forward. You didn’t think Curiosity made its touchdown on Mars without learning from a few mistakes, did you?