Daily Archives: 01/29/2004

Thinking on Mars: The Brains of NASA’s Red Planet Rovers

Interesting. The computer that powers most space probes, including both Mars Rovers, is the RAD6000. It is a variant of the old PPC 601 chips that ran in the first PowerMacs ten years ago.

The RAD6000 is a proven and capable chip, but compared to the chips in modern PC’s it is positively Paleolithic. It tops out at 25 mHz, yeah I said megahertz. But a new generation chip is just becoming available, the RAD750. The RAD750 is based on the PowerPC 750, the same chip that runs this Macintosh I am sitting at right now. Apple calls it the G3, and still uses the chip in some low end notebooks. While the RAD750 runs at a pokey 250 mHz, that’s still a tenfold increase in processing capability of the RAD6000. And believe me, my 300 mHz G3 is plenty fast for most everything I need. I wonder if the next NASA probe will play mp3’s?