In 2006, NASA launched a spacecraft named New Horizons with an eye toward the dwarf planet Pluto.
Nine years later, it’s taking gorgeous photos of Pluto, its moons, and other, mostly cold stuff in the region (known as the Kuiper Belt). Like this:
Good framing, NASA spacecraft!
Anyway, apparently all these gorgeous photos are enabled by a spacecraft that’s powered by the same chip that powered the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Really!
The chip is known as the “MIPS R3000,” and it’s still used today in stuff like server stacks and workstations, according to the company that’s still making MIPS chips. It’s also known for powering the hot moves of “Crash Bandicoot” and burning rubber of “Twisted Metal.” We’ll spare you all the dry technical details, but there’s one that’s especially great:
The CPU of choice for New Horizons is a MIPS-based Mongoose-V chip clocked at a whopping 12 MHz. Mongoose-V is a radiation-hardened version of the MIPS R3000 CPU and is manufactured by Synova, a Florida-based company that specialises in turnkey aeronautics solutions.
So that’s basically saying that the New Horizons spacecraft is powered, computationally speaking, by an ageing processor that’s been “radiation-hardened” for use in space. Which is to say: no, unfortunately, your old original PlayStation probably wouldn’t survive in space all by itself. Unless you’ve been radiation-hardening it? Here’s hoping you’re not.
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