Finally, the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express has received a long-awaited update. You can call it an upgrade, because the spacecraft will be equipped with a new operating system after Windows 98. We ourselves have already developed a number of variants of Windows here on Earth, but the space equipment is simply more old-fashioned and will therefore also work in a quieter environment.
ESA engineers launched an orbiter into space nearly 20 years ago, and it is now ready for a new operating system. Where Mars Express is still doing well on its own, its hardware has started to use software that would benefit from upgrading to something beyond Windows 98. This is specifically related to MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. Important technology: I discovered in 2018 that there must have been water on the Red Planet.
The upgrade also means something for the discoveries we can make with the orbiter. This way we can better look under the surface of Mars and learn more details about the planet. MARSIS uses low-frequency radio waves bouncing off the surface of Mars to search for water. There is a huge antenna on the device that can see a few miles below the surface of the planet. The signal from this 40m antenna can be better received because of the upgrade.
ESA WritesMost of these waves are reflected from the planet’s surface, but significant amounts travel through the crust and are reflected at the boundaries between layers of different materials below the surface, including ice, soil, rock and water. By examining the reflected signals, scientists can map the structure below the surface of the Red Planet at a depth of several kilometers and study properties such as the thickness and composition of the polar caps and the properties of igneous and sedimentary rocks.”
The built-in memory fills up quickly, causing ESA to discard unwanted data. For example, MARSIS can run for five times longer and a larger area can be explored. New water sources perhaps? It will take some time to get used to Mars Express. Windows 98 is still considered one of the best operating systems ever. In any case, it’s better than many types of Windows that came after it, which raises the question of where ESA is upgrading the hardware to.
We are still focused on Mars. We’ve now visited the moon (and we’ll do it again of course, but this time with a black person and a woman, for the first time in history). However, there is a wonderful race around Mars. Who will be the first to set foot on Mars? Elon Musk is eager to instantly colonize it with his own SpaceX. However, at the moment, it will take another 9 months for humans to reach Mars, which means that there is still a lot of research to be done before we expose our fellow humans to this.
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