Late Sunday night, NASA’s Curiosity rover made it safely to Mars.
Sebastian Anthony has a fascinating article for ExtremeTech, titled “Inside NASA’s Curiosity: It’s an Apple Airport Extreme… with wheels” which details the humble computing tech spes of this magnificent rover.
In Curiosity’s case, the CPU is a PowerPC 750 (PowerPC G3 in Mac nomenclature) clocked at around 200MHz — which might seem slow, but it’s still hundreds of times faster than, say, the Apollo Guidance Computer used in the first Moon landings. Also on the motherboard are 256MB of DRAM, and 2GB of flash storage — which will be used to store video and scientific data before transmission to Earth.
On the software side of things, NASA again stuck to tried-and-tested solutions, opting for the 27-year-old VxWorks operating system. VxWorks, developed by Wind River Systems (which was acquired by Intel), is a real-time operating system used in a huge number of embedded systems. The previous Mars rovers (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft all use VxWorks. VxWorks also powers BMW iDrive, the Apache Longbow helicopter, and the Apple Airport Extreme and Linksys WRT54G routers (really).
Read the full article here.