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Apr 12, 2001
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NASA's Perseverance rover, which recently made history landing on the surface of Mars, is powered by the same processor used in an iMac more than 23 years old.

PIA23764-RoverNamePlateonMars-web.jpg
Image Credit: NASA


As reported by NewScientist (via Gizmodo), the rover includes the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the G3 iMac in 1998.

The main chipset is the same; however, there are differences between the version of the processor shipped in a consumer computer and the one exploring space. The processor in the rover is built to withstand temperatures between -67 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit (−55 and 125 degrees Celsius) and comes with an added $200,000 price tag.

The PowerPC 750 processor was ahead of the game for its time, featuring a single-core, 233MHz processor, 6 million transistors (compared to today's 16 billion in a single chip), and based on 32-bit architecture.

iMac-G3.jpg

Apple used PowerPC chips in Mac computers until it transitioned to Intel in 2005. Right now, Apple's going through a similar change, moving away from Intel to deploy its own custom Apple silicon in Macs.

Article Link: NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 G3 iMac
 

MacTiki

macrumors member
Nov 17, 2008
66
70
“...and comes with an added $200,000 price tag.”

Behind closed doors at Apple HQ they are currently working on pricing for the new M1x line.

They stop and wonder for a second if the people are ready for a 6 figure Mac.

Thanks NASA.
 
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Glideslope

macrumors 604
Dec 7, 2007
6,741
3,990
a quiet place in NY.
Because super-reliability is more important than compute power. The G3 is also used e.g. as mission computer in fighter jets.

Precisely. Qualifications for use in a NASA mission must be at practically 0 chance of failure. There are many articles out there detailing NASA’s selection process. It’s intence.
 
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juanm

macrumors 68000
May 1, 2006
1,588
3,010
Fury 161
This is not suprising. New Horizons used the same CPU as the original PlayStation.

 
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MJaP

macrumors regular
Mar 14, 2015
117
283
Wow, wouldn't have thought they'd still be making them... or equivalents. They'll be using vacuum tubes next, or selotaping a Speak and Spell to a Big Trak: "Next spell martian"
 
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Blackstick

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2014
754
3,246
Sunny South Florida
Why so old processor?
Anything launched into space has typically been in a multiple years long project, sometimes decade(s) long. It also usually costs a gazillion dollars.

What matters most is reliability and predictability... especially for something going millions (or billions) of miles away and not coming back that we can’t send astronauts to physically fix.

Most of the closed loop systems aboard aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, weapons and similar applications have very old, proven, but mundane processors and operating systems aboard... the last thing you want is “the new kid on the block” when the stakes are so high. Although parts of it are modernized as needed, the ECU in a typical car has the processing power no more than a Texas Instruments calculator... some of the software in Boeing and Airbus jets is virtually unchanged since the 1980s as well.
 
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