The European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express is finally getting a long-awaited update. You can call it an upgrade, because the spacecraft will be provided with a new operating system after Windows 98. We ourselves have already progressed a number of variants of Windows here on earth, but space equipment is simply a bit more old-fashioned and will therefore also operate in a quieter environment. manner of updates.
ESA engineers launched an orbiter into space just under 20 years ago, and it is now ready for a fresh operating system. While the Mars Express is still doing well on its own, its instruments have started to use software that would benefit from an upgrade to something beyond Windows 98. It is specifically about MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. Important tech: it discovered in 2018 that there must have been water on the red planet.
The upgrade also means something for the finds we can make with the orbiter. This way we can look better under the surface of Mars and learn much more details about the planet. MARSIS uses low-frequency radio waves that bounce off Mars to search for water. There is a hefty antenna on the device that can see a few kilometers below the surface of the planet. The signal from that 40 meter long antenna can be received better due to the upgrade.
ESA writes: “Most of these waves are reflected from the planet’s surface, but significant amounts travel through the crust and are reflected at boundaries between layers of various 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 to a depth of several kilometers and study properties such as the thickness and composition of the polar caps and the properties of volcanic and sedimentary rocks.”
The onboard memory fills up quickly, causing ESA to discard data that is not needed. For example, MARSIS can be switched on for five times longer and a larger area can be explored. New water sources perhaps? Mars Express will take some getting used to. Windows 98 is still considered one of the best operating systems ever. In any case, it’s better than many Windows types that have come after it, leaving the question of where exactly ESA upgrades the device to.
We remain focused on the planet Mars. We have now visited the Moon (and will of course do so again, but this time with a black person and a woman, for the first time in history). However, there is a big race around Mars. Who will be the first to set foot on Mars? Elon Musk would like to colonize it right away with his SpaceX. At the moment, however, it will take another 9 months for humans to arrive on 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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