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Mars Rover Curiosity: Less Brainpower Than Apple's iPhone 5

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the when-I-was-a-boy-we-didn't-have-mars dept.

Iphone 256

Nerval's Lobster writes "To give the Mars Rover Curiosity the brains she needs to operate took 5 million lines of code. And while the Mars Science Laboratory team froze the code a year before the roaming laboratory landed on August 5, they kept sending software updates to the spacecraft during its 253-day, 352 million-mile flight. In its belly, Curiosity has two computers, a primary and a backup. Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer. 'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld."

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Just goes to show. . . (5, Insightful)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768151)

. . . how wasteful most commercial software packages are.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768227)

Yeah, good comparison.

Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on code for a very specific purpose compared to anything else.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (1)

JasoninKS (1783390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768365)

Agreed. When you're looking at as "tight" a package as Curiosity, you make some darned efficient code.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768493)

Just goes to show how wasteful most commercial software packages are.

Not really.

Curiosity can get by with less brainpower because it's not going to be put in the hands of all those senile old Apple customers.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (4, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768723)

Or how bloody-minded comparisons tell you little. The reason you need horsepower on the board is not because computations are bearish. Rather, all the human interface code.
I worked on government systems two decades ago that had four-decade old technology and worked great. Why? All the user interface agony was offloaded to dedicated consoles.
Case in point: which is harder to code against: a command line interface, or a full-on GUI?

Re:Just goes to show. . . (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768731)

". . . how wasteful most commercial software packages are."

That's certainly true. And the huge volume of our data, too, but mostly software. I have programs on my computer that are easily 20 times the size of entire hard drive of one of our office computers back in 1994... and that hard drive contained a complete install of Microsoft Office as well as Lotus 1-2-3 for those who didn't like Excel. With lots of room to spare. As a long-time programmer, I celebrate the increases in capability we have seen over the years, but I decry the bloated inefficiency of much of our modern software. I would go so far as to say I am dismayed by it sometimes.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (4, Informative)

smash (1351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768831)

Nah, it just goes to show how far behind the performance card the radiation hardened, military/aerospace grade equipment is.

Plus, you really don't want to be bleeding edge on this sort of stuff. Discovering a mission ending critical CPU bug when you're astronomical scale distance away = bad.

Re:Just goes to show. . . (1)

smash (1351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768847)

errr.. performance CURVE, obviously.

So... (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768159)

... not enough power to run Angry Birds then?

iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (5, Insightful)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768161)

Sure, the iPhone 5 may have more processing power... But I bet if you put that thing in space, the first cosmic ray that comes along will happily crash the OS. Game over.

Hardware in spaecraft has to be hardened big time against radiation. Off the shelf junk will NOT work. Just sayin'.

power use and battery life have to be deal with as (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768191)

power use and battery life have to be dealt with as well.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (5, Funny)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768207)

That is why the Spirit rover got stuck, it was using Apple Maps.

turtleneck for the worst (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768523)

I'm 100% bootybuttnakednude. What can you possibly hope to do to me?

Re:turtleneck for the worst (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768649)

Mr Ballmer, you have a customer!

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768213)

even if we could make the latest and greatest chip radiation hardened it would still be outdated by the time it got to Mars

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768319)

yea, but not by 20 years

they can waste time and money watching worms fuck in space, but not harden even remotely modern computer

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768401)

It's not outdated by 20 years. The CPU is a RAD750, based on PPC750 which means it's roughly equivalent to a PPC G3 so the thing has a similar amount of power to the original iMac. That's leaps and bounds over the 386s that NASA used to use.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (3, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768585)

So only 16 years, then.... The PPC750 was introduced in 1997. Not quite 20, but closer to 20 than to "recent"....

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768801)

Remember that the hardware requirements for the rover were set in 2004, or when the PPC750 was 7 years old and the RAD750 was 3 years old.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAD750 [wikipedia.org]

The 740/750 models had 6.35 million transistors on a 260 nm process has a die of 67 mm2

The RAD750 has 10.4 million transistors, is manufactured by BAE Systems using either 250 or 150 nm process and has a die area of 130 mm2

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768249)

Off the shelf junk works in space all the time. Processing power is unrelated to radiation shielding.

Lack of processor power has to do with qualification processes and lead times. Your pitiful opinion is misdirected and uninformed.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768363)

Off the shelf junk works in space all the time. Processing power is unrelated to radiation shielding.

Lack of processor power has to do with qualification processes and lead times. Your pitiful opinion is misdirected and uninformed.

OTS works in the Earth's magnetosphere. Get outside of that and you have to start making major design compromises, particularly with RAM.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (-1)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768297)

Cosmic rays [wikipedia.org] go straight through the earths atmosphere. So an iphone on earth gets hit with the same amount of cosmic rays as one in space. Off the shelf computer hardware does indeed work just fine in space. You can watch people on the ISS using normal laptops and cameras all the time.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768385)

Cosmic rays [wikipedia.org] go straight through the earths atmosphere.

They absolutely do not, as the article you cite makes clear in its second sentence. Sheesh.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (5, Informative)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768435)

Did you even read the article you linked?

Cosmic rays go straight through the earths atmosphere.

No, it doesn't. If that were true we'd be all dead. Comic radiation in interplanetary space is 400 to 900 mSv annually, which is 1000 to 2200 times stronger than dosage at sea level on Earth (0.4 mSv). Earth's atmosphere blocks most radiation below 1 GeV.

Off the shelf computer hardware does indeed work just fine in space. You can watch people on the ISS using normal laptops and cameras all the time.

That's because ISS is in LEO and thus is still protected by the thermosphere and Earth's magnetic field. On a trip to Mars neither of those protections would be available.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768619)

Well, you know the bell is ringing but don't know where. Cosmic radiation that makes it to Earth is not hampered by Earth's magnetic field - only the atmosphere really stops it. Solar wind on the other hand is redirected by the magnetic field..

There's the difference between radiation in space. Not all of it is "cosmic", most is solar in origin. You see, cosmic radiation already has had to pass through the few dozen AU of sun's magnetic field in order to get to Earth. The stuff that gets here is either quite strong (>> GeV), OR from the sun.

Yes, regular hardware works in space. But it also breaks more easily than hardened hardware.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768581)

Please read the article you linked to:

Since both intensity (number of particles per unit area) and energy of cosmic rays is much larger outside Earth's magnetic field and Earth's atmosphere [...]

and

Cosmic rays have sufficient energy to alter the states of elements in electronic integrated circuits[...] This has been a problem in extremely high-altitude electronics, such as in satellites, but with transistors becoming smaller and smaller, this is becoming an increasing concern in ground-level electronics as well.

Cosmic rays can go straight through the earth's atmosphere, but a lot are diverted by earth's magnetosphere or absorbed by the atmosphere.

The ISS is in low Earth orbit, at about 400km above sea level. That's very much inside Earth's magnetosphere [wikipedia.org] , so it doesn't get exposed to most of the Solar wind a high Earth orbit (100,000 km) satellite would get, not to mention a spacecraft going to Mars.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768677)

Things I like about your comment

6 digit UID
Giving a citation that is contrary to your post
Being moderated offtopic
Your sig bemoaning 'unfair' modding

I'm lovin' it.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (0)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768415)

Sure, the iPhone 5 may have more processing power... But I bet if you put that thing in space, the first cosmic ray that comes along will happily crash the OS. Game over.

Hardware in spaecraft has to be hardened big time against radiation. Off the shelf junk will NOT work. Just sayin'.

That's the myth anyway.

Turns out both the Russian and US Space agencies are using off the shelf laptop computers in space with no special hardening.
All failures todate have been screens, because of the laptops getting accidentally knocked and sent careening across the cabin
to hit something.

Turns out the chances of a cosmic ray killing a processor are way less in space than they are here on slashdot.
Also turns out that shielding is a lot harder to achieve than expected. Turns out Seymour Cray was wrong after all, and
parity checking is not just for farmers. Most satellites and space based processors are no more successful at
hardening than your garden variety laptops. They just program them better and watch for memory errors.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (2)

Dorianny (1847922) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768485)

On the iss astronauts can do hands on troubleshooting, and if the worst happens they can just fly replacement parts in the next resupply mission.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768673)

On the iss astronauts can do hands on troubleshooting, and if the worst happens they can just fly replacement parts in the next resupply mission.

So if the ISS blows up and each chunk survives reentry and smashes a different nuclear plant, causes dozens of meltdowns simultaneously across the Earth we'll just fly some parts up on the next resupply?

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

p0p0 (1841106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768623)

As a previous poster had pointed, astronauts are not far enough out of orbit for the electronics to be in danger of cosmic rays as they are still within the protection of the Earths atmosphere.

space qual/rad tolerant (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768817)

You're conflating serveral things..
Space Qualification doesn't have a lot to do with rad hardening. It's more about manufacturing processes, reliability, and testing to work over wide temps. That off the shelf computer probably won't work at -40C or +75C, while the processors in most spacecraft do. ISS or shuttle isn't a good example: it's basically an office environment: it even has *air*.

Rad hardening is something else. And the space processors *ARE* more successful at hardening than garden variety CPUs. Take a look at the LEON3FT SPARC core, for instance (Available commercially as the Atmel AT697 or the Aeroflex UT699, or you can burn it into an Actel RTAX2000, if you like). It has register paths that have error correction, etc. The demonstrated performance in a radiation environment *is* better than the non FT version.

There's single event upsets (SEU) aka "bit flips" which EDAC or parity works nicely for. Your laptop flipping a bit might not be a big deal.. most consumer software has enough bugs and things that you just restart and move on. If the processor controlling the rocket motors during entry descent and landing screws up it's a $2.5B hole in the ground. So internal registers in the space CPUs tend to be triple redundant or other upset mitigations.

But that's really not the big issues. There are things like Latch-Up.. that particle going through causes a latchup, and the resulting high current at a small location melts the chip. Oops, dead. There are latchup immune designs and processes, and there are latchup monitor/reset circuits, but it's not universal.
There's single event gate rupture (SEGR) which is where a MOSFET gate gets punctured because the normal charge on it is close to the failure level in normal operation, and the particle deposits just enough more to push it over the edge. Would you notice this on a modern CPU? Maybe it's in the microcode for calculating square root or something and you wouldn't for a long long time.
We use a lot of FPGAs in spacecraft these days.. If it's a xilinx, that particle can flip a configuration bit, and now you've just programmed your FPGA to have two outputs connected to the same "wire" and they have opposite values. Oops some dead gates now, or if it's bad enough dead chip.

ISS is a benign radiation environment.. about a Rad(Si) per year or so. There are *humans* on ISS, after all. After all 600 Rad will kill someone in days, 100 Rad will make them pretty sick. A typical design dose for a Mars mission might be 20kRad. For going to Jupiter, maybe a MegaRad?

But even in that benign radiation environment, a lot of COTS equipment will fail, and there's no way to predict, short of test. So they take all those COTS widgets and run them in a proton beam and figure out what the mean time til failure is. If it's long enough, you send it up to ISS and have at it. There's an awful lot of stuff that has "expected life on ISS" of something like 90-180 days. Google for the papers or look at the website http://www.klabs.org where a lot of this stuff is collected. 180 days on ISS is plenty if you're sending new stuff up on a regular basis. Even at $100k/kilo, that's pretty inexpensive to just send a new iPad up every few months if one dies.

If you're sending a billion bucks to Mars for 10 years, I think you might want something a bit better.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768461)

To my knowledge, Curiosity has never sent messages like this:

omg r u siris gt out! lol :)

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768473)

But just call iCare and a Genius will be dispatched right away to fix it.

Re:iPhone 5 is faster.. for a few minutes maybe. (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768507)

Hardware in spaecraft has to be hardened big time against radiation. Off the shelf junk will NOT work. Just sayin'.

And yet, the HTC Nexus One has passed many of those tests [engadget.com] without much problems.

If OS crashes, just reboot it (2)

Su27K (652607) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768721)

And make sure you have more than one running at the same time. SpaceX uses non rad-hardened computers on Dragon, and in their last mission one computer had to reboot due to a radiation hit, but the system works fine since they have redundancy, this is explained in detail here [aviationweek.com] . So no, hardware in spacecraft does not have to be hardened against radiation, and off the shelf junk will work. Of course this doesn't mean you can use iPhone on Mars rover since in Dragon's case it's a short mission and they're under the protection of Earth's magnetic field, it just means you need to design your system in a case by case basis and avoid over-generalization.

Not so much cosmic rays (2, Informative)

localroger (258128) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768843)

Cosmic rays actually interact very little either with the Earth's magnetosphere, atmosphere, or sillicon chips. They're going so fast that they don't hang around long enough to interact with atomic nuclei unless they score a direct hit. There really isn't much difference in cosmic ray exposure between the ground and, say, the surface of the Moon. The real problem is solar weather. The Sun regularly spits out particle blasts that would fry anything made of semiconductors. Those blasts are what power the aurorae. But those charged particles aren't going so fast so they're deflected by the magnetosphere (which is what protects the ISS) and they're also more readily absorbed by the atmosphere, which is why radiation levels at sea level are lower than they are in Denver. If you could get your iPhone and tablet safely out of the solar system, they would probably work fine on a generation starship.

So? (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768165)

The iPod isn't expected to survive the same environment.

Sometimes ruggedness beats clock cycles.

--
BMO

Re:So? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768219)

The iPod isn't expected to survive the same environment.

Sometimes ruggedness beats clock cycles.

--
BMO

Yeah, and I wasn't expecting the app store to be filled with 99% shit. Sometimes stupidity beats common sense.

Misleading (3, Informative)

Tourney3p0 (772619) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768175)

This is misleading. The rover has dozens of LRUs, all individually computing sensory input, crunching it, and sending it across the bus for the main computer to process. Yet it's only taking into account the main computer's processing power.

Re:Misleading (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768223)

What is an LRU?

Re:Misleading (5, Informative)

Orion (3967) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768257)

Line Replaceable Unit, meaning it's an unit that can be swapped out quickly.

Somehow I don't think that term really applies here...

Re:Misleading (2)

lastx33 (2097770) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768341)

Each control system requires comparatively little processing power but high reliability and redundancy. As an example, the back-up flight computer on the space shuttles was an HP-41CV/CX pocket calculator and later, an HP42S. These models were chosen specifically for build quality, reliability and lack of known inherent bugs, oh - and low outgassing.

What a waste (2)

Stele (9443) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768181)

And yet, from my observations, all the iPhone is ever used for is cutting virtual rope and tweeting (low-res) pictures of food. Seems like quite a waste by comparison.

Jailbroken? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768187)

I'm sure the amount of available CPU that is usable greatly depends on the availability of a JB or not.

Ms Rover (0)

Nex (23489) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768195)

The Mars Rover is now a She? Could it ever have been a He?

No. The Rover is an It.

In the frenzy to be politically correct, mistakes are made I guess.

Re:Ms Rover (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768273)

They could be just continuing the tradition of referring to ships as "she".

While they people running the mission do not depend on the rover for their livelihood the way sailors depended on their ship, I'm assuming it's still a group of mostly men working together over a long time period.

I would probably go with "it" myself, though.

Re:Ms Rover (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768431)

The Mars Rover is now a She? Could it ever have been a He?

No. The Rover is an It.

Tut, tut! Don't assume! Go to Mars, turn her over, and check!

Re:Ms Rover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768685)

8,580 pounds? Clearly female.

/misogyny

Hubble upgraded to 486 (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768199)

And the Hubble Space Telescope was upgraded to an 80486 during one of the shuttle maintenance missions.

That shouldn't impress anyone. (4, Insightful)

gTsiros (205624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768205)

Voyager 1/2 could run about 100K instructions per second, maybe less.

It's about the objective, not raw processing power.

And this is a fine opportunity! to pour some of my bile about the miserly state in which modern software is.

Lots more eyes than one (3, Informative)

sighted (851500) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768217)

Nitpick with the summary: the rover is not 'one eyed'. It uses a bunch: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/rover/eyesandother/ [nasa.gov] That said, it does have that one big laser on its head: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/instruments/spectrometers/chemcam/ [nasa.gov] Robots on Mars with lasers. It doesn't get much better.

Imagine that- (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768229)

One of the budget Android phones from 2 years ago has more power than the Mars Rover.

this one-eyed explorer. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768233)

That's what my wife calls mine.

Re:this one-eyed explorer. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768529)

Shit I just spent my last mod point!

Re:this one-eyed explorer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768605)

Does it have less power than your phone too?

There's a reason (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768269)

Years back I read that NASA uses older, battle tested chips rather than going with cutting edge hardware that might crap out on you from an obscure bug.

Why do they always have to refer to the iPhone? (1, Flamebait)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768279)

Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer.

Never mind that iPhone's source code is closed. I don't dispute the fact above.

My trouble though is on the constant reference to Apple's device as if a generic term like "Smart Phone" would not suffice!

Personally, I am tired of seeing the term "iPhone" day in and day out. I am tired!

Can anyone refute 'my fact that' any smart phone has more processing power then the the one-eyed explorer?

Re:Why do they always have to refer to the iPhone? (0, Flamebait)

Bomazi (1875554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768337)

Because Steve Jobs invented the computer, duh.

Re:Why do they always have to refer to the iPhone? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768517)

. . . because sometimes, Libraries of Congress aren't appropriate as units.

You could, however, measure total processing power as number of Libraries of Congress filled with iPhones. Which would make just amount sense of comparing a Mars Rover to a smart phone in the first place . . .

Re:Why do they always have to refer to the iPhone? (5, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768597)

Maybe it's because of the fact that the speaker was addressing a crowd at Macworld...

'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld.

Re:Why do they always have to refer to the iPhone? (0)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768805)

I dunno...I hear Android and Samsung all the fucking time.

heh yea but (5, Funny)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768291)

Curiosity's computer(s) can handle extreme cold and radiation of space while keeping radio communication for millions of miles, An iPhone is prone to overheat during normal use and has had trouble sending a radio signal though your hand.

Re:heh yea but (1)

aitikin (909209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768483)

I don't know about "overheat during normal use", but the rest of this statement is pretty damned accurate. Your iPhones have more processing power than your car usually does to, that's not considered a big deal because the processing power in your car is task specific and designed to handle much higher and lower temperature swings.

firs7 post... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768311)

I wouldn't call it one-eyed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768335)

My friend is on the team for one of several cameras.

So? (5, Funny)

JasoninKS (1783390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768343)

I'll give Curiosity the gold medal any day.

Lets compare, shall we?

iPhone - sometimes flaky signal. Curiosity - working from millions of miles away. WIN Curiosity.
iPhone - works on Earth within range of cell towers. Curiosity - working on frakking Mars. WIN Curiosity.
iPhone - 1 day power life. Curiosity - radioactive power pack. WIN Curiosity.
iPhone - plays games, makes calls, takes pictures of girls making duck faces. Curiosity - scientifically explores and photographs another planet. WIN Curiosity.
iPhone - will shatter if you handle it wrong. Curiosity - dropped onto another world and still going. As designed. WIN Curiosity.

Curiosity, doing way the hell more, with way the hell less.

Re:So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768745)

Different signal.
Different signal.
How big is the power pack?
Different device.
Try dropping curiosity a second time and see what happens.

Re:So? (1)

Col Bat Guano (633857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768807)

Hmmm... I am ...curious... about this thing you describe.
I would like to order one on a 2 year plan.

what about the cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768367)

IPhone in my pocket also costs $650, how much did that rover thing cost?

The title is so obvious (-1)

fufufang (2603203) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768377)

What a surprise...Curiosity has been just begun its 10th years of operation. It has space rated hardware, which means the hardware itself is not the best in its class, in terms of speed. iPhone 5 was only released last year...

Re:The title is so obvious (3, Informative)

JasoninKS (1783390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768417)

Better double check your figures. Curiosity launched November of 2011. Just landed August of 2012.

way back in 2008... (3, Interesting)

mschaffer (97223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768387)

Way back in 2008 most of the hardware and software development was complete, so it should be compared to the original iPhone or the iPhone 3G.

Big deal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768405)

Apple products are overpriced crap for people with more dollars than sense. Anyone who buys apple is helping to support their fight against fair trade. Fuck of and die, you slimy little maggots.

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768425)

Why do these Nasa rovers have stripper names?

Reliable devices lag consumer devices (2)

steveha (103154) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768443)

Devices prepped for the harsh environments will take longer to build than consumer devices, so the spec gets frozen sooner.

Plus, as long as it has enough horsepower, why mess with the design to upgrade it?

P.S. This is not really a new observation. Consider PhoneSat, the project to take an off-the-shelf Android phone and use it as the heart of a micro-satellite. Clearly the processing power is enough, plus they can use the camera, inertial sensors, and I guess even GPS. (I wonder if the GPS software can cope with orbital altitude?)

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/home/PhoneSat.html [nasa.gov]

Not needing a foolproof UI is most of it (4, Insightful)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768453)

I've written an universal autopilot in 2007 that fits in 32K of eeprom. I say that not to brag, but to mean that these things are not unusual. Software on PLCs and so on is often very small -- it also has to be very good at not crashing. Fortunately that's all it has to be: nobody cares if the scroll bar doesn't glow when it's hit the end and so on, it just has to keep the power plant working :)

Huh? (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768455)

Why does it matter at all? It doesn't matter the relative processing power of my phone, there's a hell of a lot more to it than processing power. Like the simple fact that my phone isn't on a different planet.

...why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768459)

why does everything have to be compared to shitty apple hardware??

too bad its users are to stupid to use that power

Most one-eyed explorers (1)

new death barbie (240326) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768463)

... aren't as smart as they think they are.

The day we can shink hardened electronics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768467)

I think it's interesting to think about alternate approaches to radiation hardening though. If they can just get small circuits to not take *permanent* damage from cosmic rays, then we're on the verge of 16nm transistors where you can have the whole circuit run the operation in 4x parallel with per-instruction parity checks.. kind of an ECC for CPU cores.. Or maybe a system that detects voltage spikes in the power-- Haswell's architecture could build in something like this for the first time-- and identifies which component got hit, and just re-run the last thing that happened there..

Headline: iPhone 5 users use less brainpower. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768471)

Offloaded conscious brain processing to Siri.
Takes worthless pictures.
Can't figure out way to San Jose.

Re:Headline: iPhone 5 users use less brainpower. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768759)

Google puts non-existant airports in ocean sized bodies of water.

iphone5 connectivity problems (1)

Dorianny (1847922) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768525)

Apple released ios 6.01 and 6.02 to fix connectivity problems with the iphone5. Its kinda hard plugging the rover into itunes to perform updates for connectivity problems.

Re:iphone5 connectivity problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768789)

6.01 and 6.02 were OTA

Compare it to Nintendo, Atari? (1, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768535)

I could compare the software used in the Statue of Liberty to any phone on the market, and create the same headline.

The explanation is simple (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768567)

The cold fact is just that running a rich graphical UI, games, etc. can actually require more horsepower than some serious science stuff, even though the latter might seem more demanding.

Re:The explanation is simple (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768839)

Even if you look at the computers on things like the F-15 you will see small memories and slow CPUs. It takes time and a lot of money to get something like a spacecraft or radar system verified. You use what you know works. If an 8085 will do the mission why not use it?

who cares about the *software*? (1)

v1 (525388) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768575)

Rovers still have the best hardware

This one's even got a laser tough enough to blast rocks. It's gonna be awhile before we see a cell phone with those kind of specs.

iPhone 5? (1)

c (8461) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768577)

Phew. I must be getting old. It feels like it was just yesterday that computing power was measured in VIC-20's. Now days it seems iPhones are a unit of speed, weight, pixel density *and* marketshare.

It doesn't bode well for metrification...

not got any sort of circuitry in my pocket (1)

johnwerneken (74428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768589)

The last thing on Earth that I desire is mobile empowerment. I find I have more than enough power as it is; often quite sufficient to cause me all sorts of hassles later. But yes progress is kinda cool. In college (1966) we had one of the first 'home' video setups, the camera was about the max size of a suitcase for checked airline baggage and weighed God only knows what it was on wheels; the recorder was about the size and weight of a washing machine; the media might fit in a bread box but I doubt it; and the whole thing cost us about $20,000.00 USD. There's a cell phone on my desk here (in case CommunistCast ISP goes down, uncommon but far from surprising); it was free and does video better; its half the size of a cigarette pack...the studio rig we bought was paid for by the USG, we got a grant to hire hookers and a suite to make a porn movie, for a class capstone project; made a profit selling 'the only copy' of the results to our customers, whose funds we (being gentlemen) let the working folks keep..

That's Pretty Common in Aerospace (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768627)

They design those things so far in advance that they're pretty much obsolete as they're sitting on the launch pad. For all that the images coming back are pretty amazing, the CCD it's packing really isn't that great. If they started designing a new one now, by the time they go to launch it we'll all have lightfield 3-D infinitely zoomable cameras on our pocket-Watsons.

Wrong Comparison (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768645)

Have you checked out the wireless coverage map for Gale Crater on Mars? iPhone - zilch, no signal. Not even roaming. AT&T and Verizon are nowhere to be found. But Curiosity - good signal everywhere. That's why my next phone contract will be with NASA's Deep Space Network.

Re:Wrong Comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768755)

So what? We are only talking about processing power, not shielding or wireless transmit capabilities. It's not "wrong comparison".

A 1000-node supercomputer has more horsepower than my PC. Still the cluster couldn't run GTA IV. But the supercomputer is still faster. We were not looking which one has capabilities to run DirectX games.

So new stuff is newer than older stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768655)

Is that what they're trying to tell us? That the new stuff is newer than the older stuff?
I've seen this same story so many times since I first began using computers (1974) that I can't possibly count them all.
New stuff is faster than the old stuff! WTF! Who knew that could happen?

Slashdot poster (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42768761)

less CPU power than the Mars Rover,

Hmm (1, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768767)

Is there any point to this article? This seems like one of those "your desktop has more power than the space shuttle" type shits of the 90's.

brainpower = power (1)

snemiro (1775092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768821)

Maybe the comparison should be made using power needed by cpu/modules instead. There are no plug sockets in Mars...yet.

But it HAS to work (1)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768903)

Two reasons why the older hardware is better

(1) It has to work - that is why you go in for older (read: more tested) hardware. What happens if a bug in the code causes a crash a million miles from home? You can't pull out the battery (oops, you can't do that for the iPhone either ;) ) - and reboot.
(2) Who cares whether the processing power is greater? What matters is whether the hardware can support the software to do what the system was designed for (which in the rover case is fixed). You use the most RELIABLE hardware to get the mission done. Any additional power/capabilities in the hardware just introduces more points of failure (OTOH, the phone should (ideally) play games that come out in two years, which might require more processing power).

My phone might also have better processing power than the autopilot hardware on most commercial airlines. You need tens of thousands of flight test/real world hours of testing before you can safely use it. Putting in the latest and greatest processor just creates more rooms for error. I would also expect a lot of the code came from other tried-and-tested systems, so you'd like to use the same hardware.

It is like using a hammer to crack a peanut shell. Sure, you get greater force with the hammer. But you have to be very, very careful when using the wrong tool for the job. Frankly, I'm not sure what the point of the article is. I don't know of any reasonable person who would even consider using a desktop/laptop/phone processors on mission critical hardware.

My car has a lot more HPs than the rover.. (1)

mrstrano (1381875) | about a year and a half ago | (#42768911)

and yet, I just use it to commute to work. What a waste.

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