The newest, however in all probability not the final, story of previous software program working in mission-critical operations involves us by way of the Twitter feed of guitar-playing Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. The European House Company’s Mars Specific probe, presently in orbit across the Crimson Planet and doing simply high-quality, just lately had a main software program replace to extend its probabilities of discovering water there.
How do you replace Home windows 98 on a spaceship orbiting Mars? @esa is doing it for Mars Specific, after 19 years. https://t.co/DRWtuaqo22 pic.twitter.com/xxkDz5GrL1June 22, 2022
Launched in 2003, the Mars Specific, and its MARSIS (Mars Superior Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) water probe, naturally ran one of many main working techniques of the time. Home windows 98.
And that’s how we found that there is a pc able to working Doom in orbit over Mars, notable not a lot for its abundance of alien life as it’s for being the setting for id Software program’s demon-blasting first-person shooter. Thanks Colonel Hadfield!
ESA’s weblog on the topic doesn’t go into a substantial amount of element, significantly relating to the framerates we may anticipate from Doom on the Mars Specific, and the way giant a display it has. It doesn’t even point out whether or not the probe will probably be conserving Home windows 98 and updating its purposes, or getting a fuller improve – Home windows Me maybe, or the model of Crimson Hat Linux most well-liked on the Worldwide House Station’s laptops.
We do know, nevertheless, that one of many favourite processors utilized by NASA is predicated on the Apple Mac G3 – it’s a single-core PowerPC 750 233MHz chip from the Bondi Blue iMac, and there is at the very least two trundling round on Mars within the type of the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers. Technically it’s known as a RAD750 as a result of it’s radiation hardened, and it’s additionally discovered within the Kepler and Fermi area telescopes. G3s weren’t famous for his or her capability to run Home windows 98, nevertheless, so for X86 equipment we now have to look to the Hubble House Telescope, which acquired a 25MHz 80486 CPU throughout a 1999 servicing mission, changing an 80386.
Subsequently we might be taking a look at there being at the very least a Pentium 90 on the Mars Specific, which opens up the potential for enjoying Wing Commander Prophecy or possibly even Ultima 7 on the scientific orbiter, alongside Doom and its first sequel.
Again to the software program replace, and it appears the brand new code for the probe “features a collection of upgrades that enhance sign reception and on-board information processing to extend the quantity and high quality of science information despatched to Earth”.
“There are a lot of areas close to the south pole on Mars through which we might have already seen indicators indicating liquid water in lower-resolution information,” stated ESA Mars Specific scientist Colin Wilson. “The brand new software program will assist us extra shortly and extensively examine these areas in excessive decision and ensure whether or not they’re residence to new sources of water on Mars. It truly is like having a model new instrument on board Mars Specific nearly 20 years after launch.”
So it sounds just like the Europeans would be the first to know if water, or a rampaging demon military, is found on that gleaming purple dot within the night time sky.