NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which landed on the Red Planet last Thursday (18), has an estimated cost of $ 2.4 billion. Despite the fortune invested, the equipment shipped has hardware as powerful as that found in old cell phones and computers.
The small Ingenuity helicopter, which will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, is powered by a Snapdragon 801 processor and based on the Snapdragon Flight drone platform launched in 2015 by Qualcomm, according to PCMag.
It has a 2.26 GHz CPU, 0.5 MP navigation camera and 13 MP front lens, being able to record in 4K and transmit data at 250 Kbps to the Perseverance rover, up to 800 meters away, using a transmitter operated on the 900 MHz frequency.
With this data sheet, Ingenuity has specifications similar to those found in smartphones launched in the middle of the past decade. Some phones with processing similar to that of the NASA helicopter on Mars are the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG G3 and the HTC One M8.
Perseverance: as powerful as a 1998 iMac
In the rover that will explore the Martian soil, there is the 200 MHz PowerPC 750 processor, accompanied by 256 MB of RAM memory and 2 GB of internal storage capacity, a configuration similar to that of the 1998 Apple iMac G3 models, the original iMac .
The operating system is VxWorks, the same as Ingenuity, and Perseverance also has more “modern” equipment on board, including powerful sensors, a 20 MP camera and long-range radio signal transmitters.
The use of “old” technology is explained by the fact that NASA defines the hardware platform at the beginning of the projects and does not modify it. As engineers take decades from concept to landing, it is not feasible to use newer components in the main equipment.