Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days (if it’s huge enough, it might even be bigger than the dwarf planet of interest), then you might not know that a NASA space probe, named New Horizons, has been on a trip for the past 9 years on its way for a flyby to Pluto. It’s been taking the closest photos of the 9th rock from the sun that we have ever been capable of taking, as well as recording other forms of data. What insanely complicated CPU is powering such a device to last the 9 years of its mission so far? The Verge reports that it’s actually a CPU from the original PlayStation games console.
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More specifically, NASA has modified an MIPS R300 CPU, one that was originally used to power popular PlayStation games such as Crash Bandicoot, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII. It is still used in microcontrollers for Toshiba, but NASA has repurposed this one to transmit data, monitor sensors and effectively fire the probe more than 3.5 billion miles away from Earth. Remember, this was crafted up to the craft’s launch in 2006, meaning that it was already using technology that was originally released more than a decade prior.
It’s because of its reliability that makes the PlayStation CPU a preferred choice for NASA, as its performance can and has been publicly scrutinized on a consumer level over a long period of time. In fact, when NASA will be sending spacecraft up to Mars with Orion, it will be powered by a CPU that’s weaker than what most current market phones provide. Considering how consumerism is driven so much by planned obsolescence and upgrading specifications, it’s quite literally amazing that parts from the console that brought you Mortal Kombat: Special Forces is powering one of the most important missions of discovery for Pluto humanity has ever brought forward.
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