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the conclusion can be paraphrased as: the Mars explorers would survive the tripThat's not a good paraphrase of the conclusion, because the actual conclusion is about probability, not certainty. It's not that the explorers would survive; it's that the risk of them dying is lower than some people think. The evidence about the backup at every stage means each individual stage (whether that is seen as a time element or a task element doesn't matter) has low risk, and the author concludes that the cumulative risk is therefore relatively low. My analogy about the long car trip isn't about the wear and tear on the tires, although that certainly would be a factor. It was about how risks build up. The longer you tempt fate, the more you run the risk of coming out on the losing end of that bet!
I'll borrow your marbles in a box example: if there are 100 marbles in the box, and only five of them are black, the odds of my selecting a black one when I reach in blindly are low. But what if I reach in, take one out, put it back, take another, put it back, take another, etc.? Don't the odds of my picking a black one begin to add up, such that you would expect that eventually I will pick one? That cumulative, growing risk is what the author here failed to consider. Low risk at any one stage does not mean low risk over the course of the entire trip.
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