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The Perseverance Rover uses the Processor of Old iMacs

Brand New Perseverance Rover by NASA is the most advanced machine that ever landed on Mars. ‘State of the Art’ is a subjective term when it comes to rovers. The PowerPC 750, a single-core, 233 MHz processor with 6 million transistors, keeps the Perseverance running. The processor is famous for powering the original ‘Bondi Blue’ iMac from 1998. It is the same type of processor used in the NASA Curiosity rover.

Some people feel that the processor is a waste. However, even with the difficulty of buying computer parts, NASA could have found the budget for something similar to Intel’s $500 Core i9 – 10900K CPU. The Intel has ten cores and a max clock speed of 5.3 GHz as well. According to the New Scientist, the unique operating conditions of Mars may find such an advanced chip detriment.

Mar’s atmosphere has far less protection from harmful radiation and charged particles than that of the Earth. A burst of radiation can cause severe damage to the sensitive electronics of a modern processor. The more complex the chip, the more things can go wrong. Due to these conditions, the Perseverance Rover features two computing models, keeping one as a backup for emergencies.

The PowerPC 750 chip is a bit more different than the one prevailing in the old iMacs. It is technically a RAD750 chip, a special variant hardened for radiations, costing $200,000. The chip is popularly used for spacecraft. Apart from Perseverance Rover and Curiosity, it also powers the Fermi Space Telescope, the Deep Impact comet-hunting spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Kepler telescope, among others.

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