The Perseverance rover made history when it landed on Mars soil two weeks ago, after an almost 7-month journey in space. Despite NASA’s mission to have the most modern in relation to space science, the equipment uses a 90’s Mac chip.
According to the NewScientist website, the vehicle is equipped with a PowerPC 750 processor, which was used in the iMac G3, launched in 1998. Apple’s iconic computer was known to be powerful (at the time) and colorful.
The PowerPC 750 has “only” 10.4 million transistors. To give you an idea, nowadays cheap smartphones have up to 1000 times the amount of the semiconductor component.
The old chip also has a single core and processes at a speed of 233 MHz. Compared to current processors with multiple cores and 5.0 GHz frequencies, the chip from the 90s looks quite slow. However, the piece was the first to be launched with the technology called “branch forecasting”, which is used today.
This type of resource allows the CPU to “guess” what information will be processed to improve performance. Thus, the more data processed, the better the piece gets in imagining what needs to be done.
Despite being the same as the iMac G3, the chip used by Perseverance has an adaptation. It was manufactured by BAE Systems, a company that produces space material, in a version to withstand temperatures between -55 and 125 degrees Celsius.
The atmosphere on Mars is not protected from sunlight like the Earth, so a flash of light could destroy the equipment. This version of the processor, which costs US $ 200 thousand (R $ 1.1 million in the current conversion), is called RAD 750.