February 23, 2024


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The Mars Rover has had the same computing power as the iMac since 1998

You do not need a lot of computer power on Mars.

NASA rover diligently landed safely on Mars. It is powered by the same processor as the iMac G3 introduced in 1998.

Anyone who still has a twenty-year-old iMac in the basement has the same processor of the $ 2.2 billion NASA rover diligence that was safe on the surface of Mars last month Landed And will continue to explore this for many years to come.

Because Computer on board Powered by a PowerPC 750 processor, it was installed in 1998 on the iMac G3. It has a processor speed of 200 MHz, 256 MB of RAM and 2 GB of flash memory, which is less than any cheap smartphone available today. Why is NASA using outdated hardware for its billion-dollar program?

Old and proven

The answer is, of course, reliability. If you use a computer from an Apple Store, the main thing is that it should work. In contrast, maximum performance is not required. Because perseverance does not have to think too much of itself. Every Tuesday morning, the rover receives instructions for the day’s operations from Mission Control in California, which must then stubbornly execute these instructions. If something does not go as planned, he is suspended and waiting for new orders from Earth.

Apple announced the iMac G3 back in 1998.

The PowerPC-750 processor has proven itself for such simple tasks – it has been adjusted a bit and turned into a weather-resistant force on Mars. A typical IMAG-65 degree Celsius and 10,000 Gray radiation could have its complications, making it extremely dangerous to humans, on an almost atmospheric planet like Mars.

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Named the RAD750, this variant of the PowerPC processor has been used successfully in space vehicles for decades. In addition to Curiosity, the direct forerunner of perseverance, the processor was also installed at the comet hunter Deep Impact or Juniper Research Juno.

The Mars Helicopter has the best processor

The RAD750 is not the only processor of diligence. Aside from the second RAD750 located on Rover’s similar backup system, there is a chip known from Android smartphones, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. It should control the mini-helicopter of intelligence, which is still hidden under the belly of diligence, but should depart in a few weeks.

The Snapdragon 801 has been around since the middle of the last decade, with standard phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5. At a processor speed of up to 2.65 GHz, it is many times faster than the chip in the rover. However, it has to do more work.

In the 90 seconds of ingenuity, the hands of NASA staff are tied due to a signal delay to Earth. However, unpredictable winds may inadvertently prevent it from flying. The fast processor enables the helicopter to make course corrections automatically in such cases.