Back in 1969, the first moon landing’s computer systems where no more powerful than one of today’s pocket calculators. Showing that you don’t need incredibly sophisticated hardware to navigate space, NASA’s New Horizons probe is powered by nothing more than the original PlayStation’s processor.
NASA first repurposed the MIPS R3000 CPU back in 2006, and this is the same CPU that was responsible for rendering the then-incredible graphics of popular titles such as Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid.
The probe is currently whizzing its way to Pluto, but if you thought that South Africans have a problem with lag while gaming, the men in control of the probe have to deal with a four hour delay when inputting commands.
As The Verge points out, this isn’t the first time that NASA has opted to make use of technology that has already been developed. In fact, the space agency actually prefers to use tried-and-tested tech. As an example, an IBM processor that was developed in 2002 will be responsible for the controls of NASA’s Orion spacecraft – the same one which it hopes will be able to carry humans to Mars one day.
But even though New Horizons makes use of a small chip, it has a rather big job to do.
“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system. The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, in a blog post.[Source – The Verge, NASA, Image – NASA]