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No More Windows 98: ESA Succeeds in Updating the Mars Water Probe

No More Windows 98: ESA Succeeds in Updating the Mars Water Probe


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

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

But how do you upgrade a probe orbiting Mars? The European Space Agency did not disclose it, but it did find a way.

According to the European Space Agency, this significant new upgrade of the software will “make it possible to view the surface of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before.” The European Space Agency sent Mars Express as the first mission to the Red Planet in 2003 and has been exploring the planet’s surface for nearly two decades. Among other things, it has been so ever since Large water supply discovered in 2018.

Data quality has been improved – so quick analyzes are possible

Software upgrades will improve on-board signal reception and data processing to improve the quality of data sent to the ground. “We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” explains Carlo Nina, a software engineer at Enginium who is helping ESA with the upgrade. “Not least because MARSIS was originally developed over 20 years ago with a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!” The new software discards all unwanted data, allowing MARSIS to run five times longer and explore a much larger area on each run.

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“The new program will help us study these regions faster, more comprehensively, with high accuracy and confirm whether they host new water sources on Mars. It’s really like having a completely new instrument on board nearly 20 years after launch.” of Mars Express, explained Andrea Sechetti, director of MARSIS operations at INAF’s National Institute of Astrophysics.

addition: Thank you for your feedback! We have edited the original post again to make it clear that it was not the orbiter running Windows 98, but rather the development platform for individual ESA programs for the spacecraft.

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NASA, surface, mars, swallow, mars probe, persistence
NASA