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ESA is finally updating Mars Express Windows 98-based software

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pcgamer.com

The European Space Agency (ESA) has finally decided to give the Mars Express probe a software update. It's been running on a 20-year-old operating system all this time, and the organisation figured an update might increase its chance of discovering the secrets of the red planet.

Together with its friendly water probe, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), the Mars Express' mission is to uncover secrets hidden under the surface of Mars, learning it's composition and the like.

Most importantly its trying to find water and, by extension, life on Mars. It already has found water(opens in new tab), but there's still more work to be done.

Our friends over at Tom's Hardware(opens in new tab) brought the news to our attention and pointed us to the ESA blog(opens in new tab), where Carlo Nenna, the Enginium software engineer carrying out the upgrade notes that they «faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS.» He says that's not least because the «MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98.» Giovanni Picardi, University of Rome's MARSIS Principal Investigator said that “MARSIS can contribute to understand the geology of Mars through the analysis of the surface and sub-surface morphology." He notes that through «detailed analysis of the instrument’s data, we can also obtain valuable indications about the composition of the materials.” MARSIS uses a low frequency, pulse-limited radar sounder and altimeter(opens in new tab) with ground penetration capabilities to do do this mission-critical work, and I'm having trouble imagining doing such significant work with an ancient OS akin to Windows 98.

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