Astronomers will update Windows at a distance of 200 million kilometers from Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — Engineers are about to release a Microsoft Windows 98 update for a Mars orbiter that left Earth nearly two decades ago.

The Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars for nearly 19 years, is about to get a major upgrade. The MARSIS instrument on the spacecraft, which is looking for signs of liquid water on the Red Planet, will get a significant boost as the Windows 98 platform is upgraded to Mars in 2022.

The upgrade will allow the probe to better see below the surface of Mars and its moon Phobos. Launched almost 19 years ago in 2003, the orbiter is studying the past, present and future of Mars.

The Marsis was developed using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98. However, as the nature and purpose of the mission evolves, the European Space Agency plans to expand the capabilities of the vehicle.

The Mars Advanced Radar for Underground and Ionospheric Sensing (MARSIS) instrument on Mars Express played a critical role in determining the presence of water on the Red Planet. He discovered a supposed lake of salt water measuring 20 by 30 km, buried under 1.5 km of ice in the southern region of the planet.

MARSIS sends low frequency radio waves to the planet using a 40m antenna. These waves bounce off the planet’s surface, but a significant amount of them travel through the crust and are reflected at the boundaries between layers of various materials below the surface, including ice, soil, rock, and water.

By studying the reflected waves and signals, scientists can map the structure beneath the Red Planet’s surface at depths of several kilometers and study properties such as the thickness and composition of its polar ice caps.

Why is the Windows 98 update needed on Mars?

The Mars Express team stated that they faced several challenges in improving the performance of Marsis. There was a need for a software update that brings the instrument from Windows 98 to Mars 2022, developed by ESA.

The new software includes a number of updates that improve signal reception and onboard data processing to increase the amount and quality of science data sent back to Earth.

“Previously, to study the most important features of Mars, and in general to study its moon Phobos, we relied on sophisticated equipment that stored a lot of high-resolution data and filled up the instrument’s onboard memory very quickly.

By discarding data we don’t need, the new software allows us to run MARSIS five times longer and explore a much larger area with each pass,” Andrea Cicchetti, who led the development of the update, said in a statement.

The new software will allow scientists to study these regions faster and more closely in high resolution and confirm whether they could be sources of water on Mars.


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