The Orion spaceship, which NASA launched this week as a first step on a mission to take astronauts to Mars, has a less powerful computer than your smartphone.
It’s widely known that today’s smartphones have more computing power than all of NASA did when it started sending astronauts to the moon.
But that was almost 50 years ago! Why would a rocket today have such a basic computer in it?
Because it’s designed for reliability, not power, reports Computerworld. NASA engineer Matt Lemke explained that the rocket will be battered by gravity and radiation, so the computer has lots of modifications to help it withstand the barrage. There are also two backup computers on board.
They’re all Honeywell computers originally built for the Boeing 787, and include 12-year-old IBM processors.
The Orion is unmanned in this launch, which is meant to test out key systems for reliability. But NASA is planning a bunch of future missions for it, including lassoing an asteroid and carrying astronauts to Mars.