NASA’s latest Mars rover has the same processor as an iMac from 1998

NASA’s latest Mars rover has the same processor as an iMac from 1998

NASA’s pristine Perseverance wanderer is the most developed machine that is at any point arrived on Mars. Be that as it may, with regards to meanderers, “best in class” is an emotional term. Steadiness is running on as a matter of fact a PowerPC 750, a solitary center, 233MHz processor with only 6 million semiconductors that is generally celebrated for controlling the first “Bondi blue” iMac from 1998. It’s the very sort of processor that NASA as of now utilizes in its Curiosity wanderer.

That may seem like a waste to some. After all, even with the difficulty of buying computer parts these days, surely NASA could have found the budget for something like Intel’s $500 Core i9-10900K CPU (with 10 cores and a max clock speed of 5.3GHz) somewhere in the $2.7 billion cost of Perseverance. But as New Scientist explains, such an advanced chip is actually a detriment to the unique operating conditions of Mars.

That is to a great extent since Mars’ environment offers definitely less insurance from unsafe radiation and charged particles than Earth’s climate. An awful eruption of radiation can gravely wreck the delicate hardware of an advanced processor — and the more intricate the chip, the more can turn out badly. In addition, at 138 million miles away, dislike NASA can simply trade out the processor if things go sideways. As a result of those conditions, Perseverance really includes two processing modules: one is a reinforcement simply in the event that something turns out badly. (A third duplicate of the module is additionally ready for picture examination.)

To make the system even more durable, the PowerPC 750 chip in Perseverance is a little different than the one in the old iMacs. It’s technically a RAD750 chip, a special variant that’s hardened against radiation and costs upwards of $200,000. The chip is popular for spacecraft, too: in addition to Perseverance and Curiosity, it also powers the Fermi Space Telescope, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Deep Impact comet-hunting spacecraft, and the Kepler telescope, among others.

While the processor may be weak compared to a modern smartphone or gaming PC, NASA’s spec sheet for Perseverance notes that it’s far more powerful than earlier rovers like Spirit or Opportunity: its 200MHz clock speed is 10 times faster than those older rovers, and with 2GB of flash memory, it offers eight times the storage. (Rounding things out, Perseverance also has 256MB of RAM in case you were looking to build your own rover.)

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