I feel like my old best friend is playing an active role.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance with the hopes of mankind. At first glance at the sight of a safe landing on Mars, many people must have sighed, thinking of technological progress, saying, “I’m sure it’s equipped with the most advanced high-tech processor …”.
But here is the shocking fact.
The “processor of a quarter century ago” was used for the Mars probe.
Certainly, the components built into this rover are a lot more powerful than our civilian devices. However, although the processor used by NASA has special specifications for space,The contents are those used in consumer devices a quarter of a century agoIt is the same as.
According to an article in the scientific journal New Scientist, perseverance uses the legendary PC released by Apple in 1998.PowerPC 750 processor on iMac G3is. If you’re the same generation or older as me, you’ll remember the shock of the iMac G3. The colorful and see-through iconic design had an impact that made us feel the arrival of the future.
If you’ve heard of the PowerPC 750 somewhere, you know. Prior to switching to Intel, Apple used RISC-type PowerPC as microprocessors for PCs. By the way, we are now returning to RISC type CPUs equipped with our own M1 processor.
PowerPC 750Single core 233MHz processor.. The latest consumer chips are multi-core 5.0GHz, so it’s undeniably slower than that.But the PC750A product pioneer that incorporates dynamic branch predictionIt is also used in the latest processors.
The CPU architecture makes knowledge-based predictions about CPU processing instructions to improve efficiency, but the more information it processes, the more accurate the chip predictions.
It has become a “space specification” that can withstand radiation and harsh environments.
However, there is a big difference between the CPU of Perseverance, which is active on Mars far from the earth, and the CPU of iMac.This time it is based on the PowerPC 750RAD750 Radiation Resistant Single Board Computer(Made by BAE Systems). It is a special specification that can withstand radiation of 200,000 to 1 million rads (2,000 to 10,000 Sv) and harsh environments of -55 to 125 degrees Celsius.
Mars does not have an atmosphere that protects the surface like the earth,Radiation from the sun mercilessly fallsTherefore, if the Mars rover is exposed to sunlight before the exploration activity begins, the end of the volume will be there. The cost of one rover is more than 200,000 dollars (21.3 million yen), so I have to protect it carefully.
“Charged particles that run through the galaxy can cause havoc when they pass through the device,” BAE Systems’ James La Rosa said in an interview with New Scientist. “It can cause electronic noise and signal spikes in the circuit, which can literally knock out the electrons.”
Strength of “Veteran reliability and toughness”
However, 1998 is the year when Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki made their debut. Why are you using such an old processor now? After all it is doubtful. I thought, “Because the cost is cheap?”, But that is wrong.All at onceHigh reliability of PC750It is from the body. A skill that a veteran can do. If you think about it, the manned spacecraft “Orion”, which replaces the Space Shuttle, also uses the RAD750 processor.
As of 2014, Matt Remke, deputy manager of electronics for Orion at NASA, said, “It’s much slower than the Intel Core i5 on a laptop, probably a smartphone.” Tells The Space Review, a space information site. “However,Ruggedness and reliability are more important than speedIt is. You have to be careful not to stop in the middle. ”
With that in mind, it makes sense for NASA to hire veterans rather than the latest technology. To “land the robot on Mars”We are also spending 2.7 billion dollars (about 288,470 million yen)Therefore, the reliability that has endured the test of “time” is of utmost importance, even in minute circuits.
Today, the RAD750 powers about 100 satellites orbiting the Earth. This includes GPS, images, meteorological data, and various military satellites. “There has never been a failure so far,” La Rosa said.
The Perseverance mission is in the video: