Communication with Mars rover has been restored after multi-week blackout

Jimmy2x

Posts: 42   +4
Staff
Out of this world: The Perseverance rover has been mapping the Martian landscape and analyzing the planet's makeup since landing in February 2021. After a pause in communications that lasted several weeks, the rover is once again transmitting data back to NASA scientists and engineers. This information continues to give researchers never before seen (or heard) access to the sights and sounds of our next door neighbor.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) celebrated this week as connectivity with the Mars-based Perseverance rover was restored. The planned period of radio silence was the result of a natural phenomenon known as a solar conjunction. The re-established link provided the Perseverance team with ongoing access to images of the Martian landscape as well as more audio recordings of the distant planet's environment.

A solar conjunction occurs when Mars' and Earth's orbits align on opposite sides of the sun. During this alignment, ionized gases ejected from the Sun's corona can interfere with radio communications. Once a conjunction begins the JPL engineers refrain from issuing any commands, as the gases can result in the rover receiving corrupted transmissions. With the red planet being anywhere from 34-million to 250-million miles away at any given time, it's definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Solar conjunction is over and I’m ready to get rolling again. Nothing like the feel of Mars under your wheels.

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) - October 19, 2021

Planning for potential communication issues is only one of many risks the JPL team has to plan for. The use of known technologies instead of those on the cutting edge plays a critical role in ensuring long term operability and ensuring NASA's ability to learn more about our galactic neighbor.

In a recently released video, JPL engineers described the rover's commercial-grade microphones used to provide never-before heard audio and acoustic data from the red planet. The rover itself, which is capable of tasks ranging from negotiating obstacles to data collection and analysis, is outfitted with a modified PowerPC 750, the same CPU that powered the Apple iMac G3 in the late 1990s.

Designing, building, transporting, and controlling a radio-operated rover millions of miles away is no easy feat. The program, which launched in July 2020, carries a $2.7 billion price tag and requires a team comprised of the world's brightest engineers, scientists, and research organizations.

The Perseverance rover will continue to traverse the planet's surface to analyze rock, soil, and air samples. Data will also be captured by the rover's sidekick, Ingenuity, a small helicopter that hitched a ride on the rover's underbelly and has since conducted several tests in the Martian atmosphere.

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VitalyT

Posts: 6,033   +6,404
The program, which launched in July 2020, carries a $2.7 billion price tag and requires a team comprised of the world's brightest engineers
And so that's how you end up with a CPU from 1990. Was it auctioned from a museum? Was it like,... One and only 1990 chip, $2bln one, $2bln two - SOLD, for $2bln to NASA & Co.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,055   +875
And so that's how you end up with a CPU from 1990. Was it auctioned from a museum? Was it like,... One and only 1990 chip, $2bln one, $2bln two - SOLD, for $2bln to NASA & Co.
They use older CPUs because they are less complex and are less susceptible to failure from a burst of radiation. But I believe this is still the most powerful CPU ever fitted to an extra terrestrial rover so far.
 

DrSuess

Posts: 151   +142
And so that's how you end up with a CPU from 1990. Was it auctioned from a museum? Was it like,... One and only 1990 chip, $2bln one, $2bln two - SOLD, for $2bln to NASA & Co.
The hardened 1990's CPU was chosen for its known reliability in harsh conditions, not its processing power. I work on a cutting edge system and we too have a series of 90's CPUs we use because they can survive harsh environments such as extreme cold and high radiation enviroments. We have decades of performance and and reliability data. Reliability is more important than performance on systems where it would be difficult if not impossible to replace faulty or failing parts.
 
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veLa

Posts: 1,138   +783
And so that's how you end up with a CPU from 1990. Was it auctioned from a museum? Was it like,... One and only 1990 chip, $2bln one, $2bln two - SOLD, for $2bln to NASA & Co.

Clearly you aren't a computer scientist if you don't understand why this microarchitecture was used. Aerospace engineers require consistency, reliability, and hardened hardware for a mission on another planet, not m0ar c0res and maXXXimum clock speeds.
 

VitalyT

Posts: 6,033   +6,404
Clearly you aren't a computer scientist if you don't understand why this microarchitecture was used. Aerospace engineers require consistency, reliability, and hardened hardware for a mission on another planet, not m0ar c0res and maXXXimum clock speeds.
When I send a brick down my balcony, it falls on the same spot. You may not find it interesting, but I see a great consistency...

I am also a computer scientist with some understanding in economics and manufacturing of chips. And when I see that all chip manufacturers stop producing radiation-resilient chips for over 30 years now, it creates a dead-end situation for space exploration. This begs the question of why NASA, with all its mighty finances cannot secure even a minimum production of chips for its specific use. Something is very wrong there.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 665   +507
To continue your call please deposit another 25 million cents .....

Always feel sorry for people with no credit and needed to buy a set amount , or insert money to get electricity , gas ( not the petrol kind ) . Hell I used to race by showers - when using those coin , token showers and there was no indication of time left .

Perseverance is too busy to answer the phone