Mars spacecraft gets Windows 98 update in 2022 to boost performance! Yes, you read it right
Yes, you read that right. A spacecraft orbiting around Mars is finally getting a Windows 98 update to boost its performance. Sounds weird, right? Many of you reading this might now even know about Windows 98. And that's not an issue, considering that this spacecraft was launched in 2003 and has been orbiting the red planet for almost 19 years now. That is a long time and in the world of technology on planet Earth, this craft would be considered obsolete. After all, how many computers do you still using Windows 98, or even Windows XP anymore?
The spacecraft, called Mars Express, was launched back in 2003 by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its software was based on Microsoft's Windows 98. The spacecraft carried an equipment by the name of Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphereic Sounding (MARSIS). The equipment was key to the discovery of huge underground aquifer of liquid water back in 2018. ESA now wants to give theocrat an upgrade to make it work even better.
Mars Express to get Windows 98 update
The MARSIS equipment essentially uses a low-frequency radio waves to study the surface of Mars for water, and its atmosphere as well. The spacecraft's 130-foot long antenna can search upto 3 miles under the surface of the planet. With the software update, the spacecraft should now be able to improve its signal reception and onboard data processing. This will improve the quality of data that is sent to Earth.
“After decades of fruitful science and having gained a good understanding of Mars, we wanted to push the instrument's performance beyond some of the limitations required back when the mission began,” says Andrea Cicchetti, MARSIS Deputy PI and Operation Manager at INAF, who led the development of the upgrade.
“We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” says Carlo Nenna, MARSIS on-board software engineer at Enginium implementing the upgrade. “Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!”
“Previously, to study the most important features on Mars, and to study its moon Phobos at all, we relied on a complex technique that stored a lot of high-resolution data and filled up the instrument's on-board memory very quickly,” says Andrea. “By discarding data that we don't need, the new software allows us to switch MARSIS on for five times as long and explore a much larger area with each pass,” Andrea added.
With the new software in place, the Mars Express will speed up the study of these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are sources of water on Mars. “It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch,” adds ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson.