Mars Probe on Windows 98 Gets Major Update After 19 Years

Mars Probe on Windows 98 Gets Major Update After 19 Years
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As support for Windows 8.1 ends on Earth, a device further out in the solar system will receive a major update to its current system based on Windows 98 for the first time in 19 years.

 

The Mars Express, a probe that departed for the red planet on June 2, 2003, and is still circulating there, is getting its first major update. Currently, the probe runs on MARSIS software, an operating system based on Windows 98. It is now being modernized with an upgrade.

Many details about the hardware the system runs on, and whether much of the original Windows 98 remains, are unknown. The ESA does say that the update gives the Mars Express more options. This makes it possible to use radio waves to look much deeper under the surface of Mars, or the surface of its moon, Phobos.

For example, the Mars Express sends radio waves to Mars, using a 40-meter antenna, most of which are reflected on the surface. But many go deeper and only reflect on other obstacles such as ice, rocks, and other types of soil or water. For example, the probe detects what the subsurface of Mars looks like.

The new software was developed by the Italian INAF (Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica) and Carlo Nenna, a software engineer at Enginium who is implementing the upgrade. This improves signal reception and onboard data processing. In the past, a lot of data in high resolution was used, so the memory was quickly too full. In the future, that will be better, allowing MARSIS to run five times longer (and thus explore larger areas).

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