Ten years ago today the Mars Rover Opportunity bounced its way on to the surface of Mars, at the start of a three month mission. In that time, as well as driving 24 miles, the little machine has added enormously to our understanding of the history of the planet. If your kids are big science and space fans they’ll love the Best Home Planetarium in 2020 to learn some more.
And this is a huge endorsement of the team who put together the electronics. The development process started nearly twenty years ago, and by the time the mission launched most of the electronics used was, to put it kindly, mature. The central processor is a 32 bit Rad 6000 microprocessor, a radiation-hardened version of a Power PC that was launched in around 1965.
Just look around- how much of the electronics you own is ten years old and still functioning? What software are you using that ceased development around 15 years ago. That is a little unfair since the software on Opportunity has undergone several upgrades.
That in itself is quite mind-boggling. When did you last do a major software upgrade and how easily did it go?
This week there was another space event that was a tribute to system designers. The Rosetta mission to investigate comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko woke up after 31 months in hibernation mode the latest stage in journey that started almost ten years ago.
So It is possible to create systems that last for years- you just have to work hard at it.