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Oldie but Goodie: The Computer Brain of NASA’s Perseverance Rover

NASA’s Perseverance rover was launched on July 30, 2020 and landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. Its mission was to seek for signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock for a possible return to Earth.

It’s only reasonable to think that all the components of NASA’s Perseverance rover are new. After all, it is the successor to the Curiosity rover, and it was only launched in 2020. And so, it would be a surprise to find out that the Perseverance’s brain is a piece of technology from the late 90s. That’s right. A processor released by IBM and Motorola over two decades ago, in 1997, serves as the brain of the Perseverance rover. The question is, why?

The craft's developers were more interested in reliability than sheer power. Their solution was a G3 processor used in Apple's Macintosh starting in 1998. Apple veterans remember the G3 fondly. It smoked older Macs with a processor operating speed that topped out at a screaming 266 megahertz (MHz). Or so we thought at the time. Today's processors leave the G3 in the dust. For example, the processor in an Apple iPhone 12 runs at 3 GigaHertz (GHz).

Possible Preaching Angle:

What is old is not necessarily outdated and it can be more reliable than what is newer. This is certainly true of the Word of God. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt 24:35). "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Ps. 119:89).


Franzified, “Oldie But Goodie: The Computer Chip Brain of NASA’s Perseverance Rover,” Neatorama (3-13-21); Press Release, “Mars – 2020 Mission Perseverance Rover,” MarsNasa.gov (Accessed 3/18/21)

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