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What's Inside the Mars Rovers

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the remote-root dept.

Space 458

Captain Zion writes "Space.com has a story about the hardware and software of Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Basically, they're radiation-shielded, 20MHz PowerPC machines wirh 128Mb RAM and 256Mb of flash memory, running VxWorks. I wonder if I could make a nice firewall with one of these for my home network..."

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But The Question is.. (-1, Flamebait)

Shivaji Maharaj (692442) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123476)

Does it run GNU/linux ?

Re:But The Question is.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123486)

Hello. I from Kazakhstan. Do you have a huge chram?

Re:But The Question is.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123488)

vxWorks.... The propper question is, what could I do with a Beowolf cluster of these things..

Re:But The Question is.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123493)

hi

Wrong!!! (1)

toupsie (88295) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123494)

Does it support Ogg?

Re:But The Question is.. (1)

danheskett (178529) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123505)

No, it runs vxWorks.

It says so right in the overview of the article...

You doin' okay?

Re:But The Question is.. (1)

Quill_28 (553921) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123506)

...I'm sure it could run Linux, but currently it is running VxWorks.

Re:But The Question is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123706)

I do stuff for space program and they always run RTOS (VxWorks or OSE). It's really small and super reliable. Trust me they aren't going to be switching to your run of the mill linux distro.

Re:But The Question is.. (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123535)

Something like this can't run GNU/Linux. There are real time implications. Linux may be fast but not as fast as a real time OS. Linux is in terms of milliseconds while a true real time OS is in terms of hundreds of microseconds. For this it does make a difference.

Re:But The Question is.. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123673)

you seem to assume that real time OS are faster than non real time Oses, that's usually not the case. the difference between the two is that a RTOS has a guarenteed response time, not a faster one...

it is not uncommon on so hard real time system to disable processor cache, it makes the processor slower, but the response time to an interrupt is easier to calculate. In RTOS interrupt latency must be PROVEN not to be longer than a constraint.

What's the bus speed on that thing? (3, Funny)

}InFuZeD{ (52430) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123487)

Does a 20mhz processor really need 128mb of ram? I mean, with a bus speed that low, you can probably put the data to flash ROM just as fast. What are the chances of you using all 128mb of ram?

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (5, Insightful)

gerf (532474) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123522)

Does a 20mhz processor really need 128mb of ram? I mean, with a bus speed that low, you can probably put the data to flash ROM just as fast. What are the chances of you using all 128mb of ram?

I imagine they can use all the storage they can, since there's no hard drive. So, the RAM acts as a cache for everything that is transmitted (which is a lot, actually). The Flash is used for more permanant software, like OS, commands, other files, ect. I'm amazed they can do it all with as little as they have.

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (3, Insightful)

4r0g (467711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123527)

The memory is probably partitioned, and some banks can be shut down if they fail. Thus the 128MB. OR, you could use it as texture memory (wonder what the display adapter is like ;)

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (1)

Ianoo (711633) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123533)

It's a damned good job they do have the RAM, since there wouldn't be much hope for Spirit if they only had the Flash.

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (4, Informative)

CaptainAlbert (162776) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123534)

> Does a 20mhz processor really need 128mb of ram?

A processor of any speed doesn't need RAM of any size.

The application you want to run needs both processing power and memory. How much of each? Depends on the application.

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (3, Interesting)

adrianbaugh (696007) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123704)

Completely off-topic, but you reminded me of something: given that most modern CPUs have a meg or so of cache built into the chip, would it be possible to build a machine with no plug-in memory modules and have it boot something simple like DOS? Or would the motherboard complain that you were being silly?

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123537)

Flash has a limited number of write cycles. Eventually the flash will "wear out", and become unreliable. Now, imagine if you're banging on a patch of memory repeatedly (like, scratchpad RAM)...

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (5, Funny)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123545)

>What are the chances of you using all 128mb of ram?

Ask Bill Gates.

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (1)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123556)

Man.. I wish I had 128mb of ram in my 1mhz CBM-64!

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (1)

hemp (36945) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123582)

But its that special "wirh " RAM...very hard to get these days, except on eBay. :-)

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (1)

pi eater (714532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123585)

Who knows.. but you have to assume that they equipped this thing with a lot more RAM that they could ever forsee using

geeky stuff.. offensive stuff! [wabshirts.com]

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123621)

True, but what supprise memore: omly 256 Mb of Flash? given the fact that you can always switch them/use them partialy (no additional power consumption), they do not take much space and mass and the fact that data transfer periods/speed is limited, I would expect flash in the range of at least gigabytes. And one reason of Spirit problems is constant overloading. Oh well, Nasa is too poor and can not affort a few extra flash modules..

memory overflow caused Spirit shutdown? (2, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123649)

A leading hypothesis is that flash memory overflow caused Spirit to be shut down for two weeks. Either it was a failure in the memory chips or OS software garbage collection. They are purging and patching now. A few days of testing and perhaps Spirit is active again.

The lockup happend just as they were going to drill into the rock they've been sitting in front of for nine days. Perhaps there was drill issue too. When the rover memory crashed, it tried to reboot its computer at least a hundred times.

Re:What's the bus speed on that thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123712)

Can't help myself......how about a Beowulf cluster of MERs....

Hey Sucka!! (-1, Offtopic)

Xenix (232152) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123489)

Where is everybody. Pay attention to me please. I'm so lonely.

I hope the flash memory was not commodity hardware (0)

uid100 (540265) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123491)

How redundant is this setup? With the failure of the flash, it begs the question of "what if the CPU flakes out" and such.

Re:I hope the flash memory was not commodity hardw (5, Interesting)

Rootbear (9274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123616)

There is very little on the Rovers that is "commodity" in any sense. The CCD image sensors, the computers, everything, is all custom made. Everything has to be made to withstand the rigors of flight and the harsh environments of space and Mars. The CPU does not have a backup, which is a bit unusual for NASA (I'm a contractor at NASA/Goddard, but not involved in any flight missions). However, the particular computer used on the rovers (the RAD6000) has a very good record. There are something like 150 in use on various spacecraft and they've all worked very well.

And the flash memory has probably not failed. It seems to have been a software problem, not hardware.

Rootbear

Radiation hardness (5, Interesting)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123501)

Does anyone know what the deal was with the flash memory that caused the outage? I heard something about a "solar event" that caused a problem with the flash memory that led to the outage. It was subsequently resolved by disabling the flash. If so, BAE Aerospace has a possible solution [baesystems.com] with their upcoming line of rad-hard memory.

My hardening technique (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123634)

is to stare at this for 30 seconds. Things get real hard real quick.

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/_TOSS_\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)___MY__|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_ROVER/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Re:Radiation hardness (1)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123638)

It sounds more like it was actually just poor filesystem management, not a hardware failure or soft error.

There have been some incriminating statements along the lines of never having tested the FS for long periods, having to delete extra data from the flash, etc.

Re:Radiation hardness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123641)

If the memory was ECC and I sure hope it was then a few twiddled bits wont matter.

Re:Radiation hardness (5, Interesting)

TwistedGreen (80055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123687)

It appears to be a software error, and not hardware-related. It actually looks like it ran out of swap space and the OS crashed. This article [spaceflightnow.com] explains what they think happened, and this article [spaceflightnow.com] has more information on their recovery plans.

A quote:
It is now believed that the rover's flash memory had become so full of files that the craft couldn't manage all of the information stored aboard. Spirit bogged down because it didn't have enough random access memory, or RAM, to handle the current amount of files in the flash -- including data recorded during its cruise from Earth to Mars and the 18 days of operations on the red planet's surface.
Raises some interesting questions about software reliability, I think. Did nobody think about running out of disk space?

Re:Radiation hardness (1)

britt (50456) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123719)

The problem is that they ran out of inodes. Filesystem freaked out and started to cause panics.

20 MHz is not enough (0, Flamebait)

dimss (457848) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123502)

20 MHz? Not enough for firewall if you have something faster than modem. Really.

Re:20 MHz is not enough (1)

kyknos.org (643709) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123573)

I still run my 7Mhz Motorola 68000 Mac and it is good even for text browsing :o) 20 Mhz is hell fast!

__

What's inside the rover? (5, Funny)

Chilltowner (647305) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123508)

Darn. Interesting articles, but I was hoping that inside it was filled with creamy nougat center. Oh, wait. I'm thinking Mars bar. Nevermind.

driving the rover (1, Offtopic)

QEDog (610238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123651)

The question that we all want to know is, how do they drive it? I imagine that they have 3 identical car cockpits, with steering wheel, brakes and gas pedal. 3 different engineers drive it, voting on their actions for redundancy. If one of them dies, or goes to the bathroom, or simply starts honking like a mad man, still the other 2 could respond.

Wait a second... (5, Insightful)

deitel99 (533532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123510)

The machines aren't as slow as the top post says... they don't run at 20MHz, they are "capable of carrying out about 20 million instructions per second". Depending on the complexity of the instructions, the processor actually runs several times faster than 20MHz.

Re:Wait a second... (3, Informative)

danheskett (178529) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123542)

That's an excellent point. A lot of people are thinking instruction = 1 cycle. The real world is that it's not unusual for an instruction to take 2, 4, 10, or even 100 cycles. The reality of the matter is that instructions can be anything from a single two bit sum to a floating point division. I see this mistake a lot... bravo for applying what you read against the supposition of a simplification.

Re:Wait a second... (4, Insightful)

Zog The Undeniable (632031) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123564)

Actually, they're probably slower :-P

Modern superscalar (pipelined) processors have a lot more MIPS than megahertz.

Re:Wait a second... (1)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123604)

Although since they're PowerPC chips, of course, even if they ran at 20 MHz, they'd still be a *lot* faster than comparable Intel. You can't just go by the specs. You have to benchmark it in real world applications and think about overall system performance...

Re:Wait a second... (0, Flamebait)

AppyPappy (64817) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123672)

If they had used an Amiga, they wouldn't be having problems right now.

Re:Wait a second... (1)

kinnell (607819) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123730)

they don't run at 20MHz, they are "capable of carrying out about 20 million instructions per second". Depending on the complexity of the instructions, the processor actually runs several times faster than 20MHz.

And you got this information where? If I remember correctly the PowerPC specification states that the processor can complete an instruction every clock cycle. Even modern CISC architectures with deep pipelines are capable of accomplishing this providing the pipeline can be kept full.

Self-warming (5, Funny)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123514)

To survive the frigid Martian night, MER computers are housed in warm electronics boxed heated by a combination of electric heaters, eight radioisotope heater units as well as the natural warmth from the electronics themselves.

Just leave off the heatsinks and fans, and everything should be fine.

Re:Self-warming (5, Interesting)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123559)

To survive the frigid Martian night, MER computers are housed in warm electronics boxed heated by a combination of electric heaters, eight radioisotope heater units as well as the natural warmth from the electronics themselves.[Emphasis added by me]

If obsessed environmentalists don't like NASA sending up probes with any radioactive material ('it might blow up, ohh..'), then how did this little tidbit get by them? Do they consider it non-radioactive? If they're only concerned by radioactive propulsion systems, then I think they're a bunch of hypocrites. Radioactivitiy is radioactivity whether it's propulsion or heating.

If they don't mind it, then let's send up those dune buggies with RTG and 18-inch wheels and cover a lot more of Mars.

-Cyc

Re:Self-warming (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123650)

Hang on, they have radioactive heaters inside the radiation shielding? I know cosmic rays etc are much worse that a few alpha/beta particles, but isn't that still a little silly?

Re:Self-warming (4, Informative)

JDevers (83155) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123678)

If I'm not mistaken, virtually all probes have some sort of radioisotope heater...

Radioactivity is NOT radioactivity when you are considering things like this. Saying the people who don't want nuclear powered rockets should hate this as well or else they are hypocrites is tantamount to saying that the people who don't like oil spills should bitch about how some motor oil ALWAYS stays in the plastic container it is shipped in. Not quite the same problem. Afterall, these things aren't much more radioactive than a Coleman lantern wick or a smoke detector element...

Re:Self-warming (5, Funny)

Zog The Undeniable (632031) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123579)

If only they'd used an Athlon, the planet would have been habitable in Bermuda shorts by the end of the week.

If you've got money to burn, sure (4, Funny)

Powercntrl (458442) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123515)

But I'd take a Linksys over a hacked Mars Rover anyday... Billions cheaper, ya know.

Radiation Shielding (4, Interesting)

kyknos.org (643709) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123521)

How is it done? Some external armor, or even insides of the chip are different?

---

Re:Radiation Shielding (5, Funny)

pi eater (714532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123569)

A modded alienware case perhaps?

geeky stuff.. offensive stuff! [wabshirts.com]

Re:Radiation Shielding (5, Informative)

the real darkskye (723822) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123601)

The CPU is fabricated to withstand the radiation, a brief summary can be found here [nasa.gov] or by googling

Re:Radiation Shielding (2, Informative)

PhuCknuT (1703) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123607)

Both.

They have extra shielding on the outside, and the electronics on the inside are designed to disipate sudden charges created by radiation hits.

Re:Radiation Shielding (2, Informative)

shawnce (146129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123635)

A lot is done with extra shielding but often radiation hardened chips use larger feature sizes then modern equivalents. The larger the features the more resilient they can be to particle/energy hits. Basically they are harder to damage permanently.

Re:Radiation Shielding (1)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123679)

There's more to it than just feature size. You need the right substrate doping and circuit structures than can dissipate the charge introduced by a particle without having it course through the parts of the chip most susceptible to being fried, or perhaps just having their logic state flipped.

Re:Radiation Shielding (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123742)

you know, instead of who*cough* catching some free karma you could have read the article..

*RAD6000 microprocessors are radiation-hardened versions of the PowerPC chips that powered Macintosh computers in the early 1990s, with 128 megabytes of random access memory (RAM) and capable of carrying out about 20 million instructions per second. A critical feature of the spaceworthy chips -- developed jointly by BAE systems, JPL and the Air Force Research Laboratory -- is the radiation shielding, which uses a series of resistors and capacitors to ground harmful radiation before it can damage onboard electronics.*

Redundency Check? (3, Insightful)

shlomo (594012) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123528)

I read somewhere that the shuttle spacecraft, has 6 computers for redundancy checks.

Your Average plane have a triple backup system, I spoke to some engineer and he said preflight checks are usally just making sure two of the systems are still working

you'd think they could at least send up some more hardware with these little critters. The extra weight would pan out, when things go bad...case in point see what they are dealing with now :)

Re:Redundency Check? (1)

pi eater (714532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123600)

Even I have a backup computer just in case mine breaks down and I can't play games.

The stakes are too high.

geeky stuff.. offensive stuff! [wabshirts.com]

Re:Redundency Check? (3, Insightful)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123623)

That way of thinking would make the cost of robotic space exploration approach that of human space exploration. Plus, the rover will not crash with loss of life in case of a minor computer failure. There is a much bigger margin for troubleshooting "in the field" than with aircraft or manned spacecraft.

Ofcourse NASA did implement a measure of redundancy by sending two rovers instead of just one.

Re:Redundency Check? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123682)

well the $800+ million wasted could have saved quite a few lives right here on earth.

Re:Redundency Check? (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123633)

The original shuttle systems had 5, not 6 computers. Later that number was reduced.

Re:Redundency Check? (5, Informative)

vofka (572268) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123714)

If I recall correctly, the Shuttle has 5 GPC's (General Purpose Computers), three of which are "online" at any one time.

The online GPC's each carry out the same set of calculations (potentially each uses code designed to do the same thing, but written by different programmers), and they compare each others results. If any single GPC is considered to be too far wrong, the offline GPC's submit their answers. The three GPC's that are in closest agreement then become the new online GPC's, and the remaining two go offline. The GPC's can reboot themselves if they are too far out of whack, if they fail in one of the "results elections", and of course when they are told to do so by the crew.

Also, whenever a GPC is sent offline by one of the others, a specific caution indicator (and potentially the master caution indicator and klaxon) is activated, and the relevant error codes are shown on one of the forward CRT's. The error codes, along with other information such as the currently running program and the current mission phase, determine the crew's actions. Actions can be as simple as disabling the master caution klaxon for the current alert, all the way to hand-checking certain results and manual GPC restarts.

This is all from memory (from about 5 years back), so some of this may have changed recently, particularly on Atlantis with the "glass cockpit" upgrade that happened 18 months or so ago, but the general gist should be about right (and I'm sure I'll soon know if it isn't!!)

Is there a Linux is space yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123541)

I was just wondering if any device is/was running linux in space?

20mhz? (1, Redundant)

pi eater (714532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123543)

Just goes to show how much can be accomplished with such a slow processor.

Impressive!

geeky stuff.. offensive stuff! [wabshirts.com]

Just image... (0, Funny)

F4Codec (619560) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123550)

... A beowulf cluster of those - does 2 make for a cluster, and did they bring a big enough piece of cable, or do you suppose Wifi would work.

What would Beagle have run had it run?

Price (1)

sparklingfruit (736978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123551)

They cost way too much to be a router. $150-200k according to howstuffworks.com. Mainly due to radiation shielding or something.

Nasa should've gone to transmeta.

What does transmeta have to do with it? (1)

rdunnell (313839) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123685)

A transmeta processor would still have to be properly shielded against radiation and other environmental hazards.

A nice Firewall? (5, Funny)

blorg (726186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123552)

"I wonder if I could make a nice firewall with one of these for my home network..."

You could, but the latency would be a bitch.

Units, units, units!!! (3, Informative)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123555)

Basically, they're radiation-shielded, 20MHz PowerPC machines wirh 128Mb RAM and 256Mb of flash memory, running VxWorks.

Mb = Megabits
MB = Megabytes.

The article writes out megabytes, so MB should be used, not Mb!

Re:Units, units, units!!! (1)

xk (64049) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123645)

Make that MiB [nist.gov] .

Re:Units, units, units!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123674)

I thought about using mibbibytes instead, but really, that's hardly something that we'd get confused about, and the difference is negligible.

Megabits versus megabytes, however, has an order of magnitude of difference.

Re:Units, units, units!!! (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123661)

I glad enough when they don't say Megs. You don't add the plural "s" to an abbreviation.

Re:Units, units, units!!! (1)

sparkie (60749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123734)

I actually worked with a kid who went ballistic on some guy for saying 'megs' ... it was in a school so he took him to the library and proved definitively that the word is 'meg' not 'megs' ... ever since then I cringe whenever I see 'megs'

Well... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123561)

Basically, they're radiation-shielded, 20MHz PowerPC machines wirh 128Mb RAM and 256Mb of flash memory,

I don't think anyone would want a Beowulf cluster of those things.

Should it have some redundancy? (3, Interesting)

mikesmind (689651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123568)

"It's quite unusual to have a single computer for the whole mission," Scuderi said, adding that many missions tend to have redundant systems as a guard against failure.
Now, while having two rovers is a form of redundancy, wouldn't it be wise to have some redundancy on each individual rover? I understand that there are concerns like weight and budget, but wouldn't some redundancy be a good form or risk management?

Re:Should it have some redundancy? (1)

pi eater (714532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123626)

Yeah.. or build a computer with two or more of everything, including the bus lines.. redundant ram, etc..

Basically a computer with redundant parts that would take over if something went wrong.

geeky stuff.. offensive stuff! [wabshirts.com]

Not a firewall, (1)

Morologous (201459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123578)

but you could probably make a pretty nice remote controlled rover to explore the outer reaches of your back yard.

Re:Not a firewall, (1)

the real darkskye (723822) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123632)

Would a PGP Signature do for ID?
Could you send one out for smokes and beer?

Beer with out leaving the arm chair, BONUS!

hummm (-1, Offtopic)

MrFreshly (650369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123580)

I wonder if I could make a nice firewall with one of these for my home network.

A solar powered Firewall...I like it! That's new! Patent anyone?

Re:hummm (1)

Zog The Undeniable (632031) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123598)

What about a solar-powered Sunscreen firewall running on Sun Solaris?

Nah...that would be silly.

Re:hummm (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123656)

well iirc Solaris [wsu.edu] was set on a planet that was mostly a gigantic ocean?

Ouch (2, Insightful)

savagedome (742194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123590)

In addition to VxWorks' reliability, the system allows users to add software patches -- such as a glitch fix or upgrade -- without interruption while a mission is in flight. "We've always had that [feature] so you don't have to shut down, reload and restart after every patch," Blackman said, adding that some commercial desktop systems require users to reboot their computers after a patch

The bold emphasis is mine but that is a big Ouch for Microsoft.


RAD6000 microprocessors are radiation-hardened versions of the PowerPC chips that powered Macintosh computers in the early 1990s
Shouldn't Apple be using this in their commercials somehow to further boost their reliability. I am sure the PR market can put it in a way that non-geeks watching tv can relate, right?

Re:Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123639)

The bold emphasis is mine but that is a big Ouch for Microsoft.

Way to karma whore/groupthink, dude!

Re:Ouch (3, Informative)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123646)

AH dude... Microsoft is totally different... VxWorks is based on the fact that all memory is linearly accessable.. there is no memory protection... that works great when all your apps are written in-house, and you know the timer ain't gonna trash the motor controller...

But try that on an OS for a desktop system, and your email program just may blow up your paint program... (remember Windows 3.1's stability? Make that 10x worse)... You can't use VxWorks for the desktop as Windows is used today... it needs a lot of protection... The ease of upgrading is due to the lack of protection...

Martian Geeks Will Overclock It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123610)

You know those Martian geeks will overclock them!

Eat your heart out Bill Gates, IBM owns Mars!

Re:Martian Geeks Will Overclock It (1)

zakath (180357) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123654)

Last time I checked MS didn't make processors...maybe you meant Intel?

Flying VxWorks to Mars (5, Informative)

Hiroto. S (631919) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123611)

I googled across following presentation with a little more details.

Flying VxWorks to Mars [colorado.edu]

If you're really interested in this type of HW (1)

Morologous (201459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123612)

In a machine similar to this, eBay for IBM RS/6000 43P models. They're uni-processor PowerPC devices 250-332Mhz.

They do make nice firewalls for distributed sites (actually currently used in production at the largest government entitlement program).

Who else ... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123630)


...read the URL to VxWorks as WinDriver.com instead of WindRiver.com?

Re:Who else ... (1)

Omni-Cognate (620505) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123647)

Me, for one. They should hyphenate that or something.

Internet conneciton (4, Funny)

vpscolo (737900) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123644)

And it can still send back at 128 kbits/sec which is faster than my connection can managed. Just waiting for it to start getting spam advertising pr0n and viagra.

Spirit Rover: Staying up longer and harder

Rus

Not 20Mhz (2, Informative)

kuyttendaele (115164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123658)

But 20 MIPS

Something strange... (2, Funny)

J. Charles Holt (598057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123680)

I noticed something odd in the latest shots from the Rover. Just on the horizon:

http://idisk.mac.com/charlesholt/public/DuckDodg er s.jpg

Hmmm... (1)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123689)

I wonder if I could make a nice firewall with one of these for my home network..."

I'm guessing due to the latency, you wouldn't even need to setup any rules.

Beagle-2 (3, Interesting)

TheSurfer (560640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123698)

An interview with one of the Beagle-2 software developers can be found here: http://linuxdevices.com/articles/AT7460495111.html

Save HST! Sell Sojourner knock-offs (4, Interesting)

bhima (46039) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123702)

What NASA should do is to hire a Taiwanese firm to build inexpensive knock-offs of Sojourner. They already have the design, I'm sure a few bright minds could cut the chassis price down significantly; after all we don't need all the exotic materials. I'm sure IBM still makes a PPC variant that would make a new cheap board layout easy. As far as the OS: of course we don't need VxWorks (Nor could the project afford it) we have NetBSD!

The profits from Slashdot alone could extend the life of HST or launch the James Web Space Telescope early.

I thought about the current rovers, but I think they are a bit large to be successful!

Good thinking... (1)

artemis67 (93453) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123716)

If we had sent a Wintel PC, it might have kicked off an interstellar conflict with the Martians...

Mac users.. (3, Funny)

JayPee (4090) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123731)

You know what's annoying about this story now that it's making the roungs.

Mac users everywhere take this as "Oooohh.. there's a Mac inside of those things!" "There are Macs on Mars!" Bleah.

And before you mod me down, realize that I'm an unrepentant Mac user and an Apple Authorized Service Tech.

To take care of Rover's heating problem... (1, Funny)

notetoi (690572) | more than 10 years ago | (#8123732)

they should have used an AMD processor. Heck, a couple of AMD processors would be more than enough to raise Mars' temperature to room temperature.

How come they use Motorola/IBM CPU's ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8123741)

and not Intel or AMD ?
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