your software was created with Windows 98

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On June 2, 2003 it was released the Mars Express probe, the first mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) to the Red Planet. His instrument, MARSIS, was tasked with discovering signs of water there, and is now about to receive a software update. crucial.

This update is especially delicate not only because it is carried out on a device that is 90 million km away, but also because the Mars Explorer software was developed with Windows 98 —although the probe itself is not based on that operating system, mind you—.

“It’s like having a new instrument on board”

Between the various instruments of the Mars Express is the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS), developed by the Istituto Nazionale de Astrofisica (INAF) of Italy, and which allows to study the subsoil of Mars at a depth of several kilometers.

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Thanks to the update, it will be possible to activate the instrument for a longer time and thus explore much more surface, as can be seen in the image: on the left, the range and time after the update. On the right, with the old software.

This instrument has a 40-meter antenna that sends low-frequency radio waves to the planet, which are then reflected by any surface or subsurface layer. That significant fraction that reaches lower layers allows materials such as ice, earth and rock to be identified. Thanks to these data it is possible measure the thickness of those layers and estimate their compositionsay those responsible for INAF.

Its operation has been impeccable, but its creators want to go further and overcome “some of the limitations that were requirements when the mission began.” For this they have the challenge of achieving it, something that as I said one of the engineers “it is difficult because the MARSIS software was designed more than 20 years ago using a Windows 98-based development environment“.

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The update will improve signal reception and data processing on board the probe to increase the quantity and quality of data sent to Earth. Until now, MARSIS used a complex technique that stored a lot of high-resolution data and filled the built-in memory in the instruments very fast.

Engineers have now been able to discover that they can discard unnecessary data and make it MARSIS activates for cycles five times longer and that also explores a much higher area in each pass. This improvement will allow, for example, to analyze with greater dedication regions of the south pole of Mars that seem to point to the existence of liquid water.

For engineers, the new software “will help us to more quickly and extensively study these regions with higher resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a new instrument on board. of Mars Express nearly 20 years after its launch.

On June 2, 2003 it was released the Mars Express probe, the first mission of the European Space Agency (ESA)…

On June 2, 2003 it was released the Mars Express probe, the first mission of the European Space Agency (ESA)…

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