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No more Windows 98: ESA manages to update the Mars water probe

No more Windows 98: ESA manages to update the Mars water probe


Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing to upgrade an orbiter orbiting Mars. The upgrade brings new possibilities to the spacecraft: “it’s like having a new instrument on board”, according to ESA.

The orbiter has been in operation for more than 19 years. So it’s no surprise that the “Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MASIS)” on board still uses Windows 98-based software. But that will change now (via Register).

But how do you update a probe orbiting Mars? The ESA did not reveal that, but found a way.

This major new software update “will allow the surface of Mars and its moon Phobos to be seen in more detail than ever before,” according to ESA. ESA sent Mars Express as its first mission to the Red Planet in 2003 and has been exploring the planet’s surface for almost two decades. Among other things, they have been since Large water supplies discovered in 2018.

Data quality is improved, so rapid analysis is possible

Software updates will improve onboard signal reception and data processing to improve the quality of data sent to Earth. “We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” explains Carlo Nenna, a software engineer at Enginium who is helping ESA with the upgrade. “Especially since MARSIS software was originally developed over 20 years ago with a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!” The new software discards all data that is not needed, allowing MARSIS to run five more times and scan a much larger area with each run.

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“The new software will help us more quickly and fully study these regions at high resolution and confirm whether they harbor new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a new instrument on board nearly 20 years after launch,” from Mars Express ,” explained Andrea Cicchetti, MARSIS operations manager at the INAF National Institute of Astrophysics.

Appendix: Thank you for your comments! We have edited the original post again to clarify that it was not the orbiter running Windows 98, but the development platform for the spacecraft’s individual ESA programs.

See also:



Nasa, Surface, Mars, Ingestion, Mars Rover, Perseverance
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