The Mars Express spacecraft finally gets a Windows 98 update

The Mars Express spacecraft finally gets a Windows 98 update

European Space Agency (ESA) engineers prepare for a Windows 98 upgrade on an orbiter encircling Mars. The Mars Express spacecraft has been in operation for more than 19 years, and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on board uses Windows 98-based software. Lucky for humanity and love for the Red Planet , the ESA is not upgraded to Windows ME.

ESA’s MARSIS instrument on Mars Express was key to discovering a massive underground liquid water aquifer on the Red Planet in 2018. This major new software update “will allow it to see more detail under the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos”. than ever before,” according to the ESA. The agency originally launched the Mars Express into space in 2003 as the first mission to the Red Planet, and it has spent nearly two decades exploring the planet’s surface.

MARSIS uses low-frequency radio waves bouncing off Mars’ surface to search for water and study the Red Planet’s atmosphere. The instrument’s 130-foot antenna is capable of searching about three miles below the surface of Mars, and software upgrades will improve signal reception and onboard data processing to improve the quality of data sent back to Mars. Earth.

South Pole of Mars, seen from Mars Express.
Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“We had to overcome 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. “Particularly because the MARSIS software was originally designed more than 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!

ESA and National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) operators have relied on a technique to store lots of high-resolution data on the MARSIS instrument, but it quickly fills the on-board memory. “By removing data that we don’t need, the new software allows us to have MARSIS on five times longer and explore a much larger area with each pass,” says Andrea Cicchetti, MARSIS operations manager at the ‘INAF. “The new software will help us study these regions faster and in greater detail at high resolution and confirm whether they harbor new water sources on Mars. It’s really like having a whole new instrument on Mars Express near 20 years after its launch.

The ESA didn’t detail the exact software the MARSIS upgrades to, but it’s unlikely the team upgraded its processor and enabled TPM 2.0 in the BIOS to install Windows 11. Right?

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