Space.com has an article about the computers controlling the Mars rovers; turns out they’re using RAD6000 processors, which are glorified PowerPC chips designed for the rigors of extra-terrestrial duty. Kissin’ cousins to the G4 on my desk!
“This has become a real workhorse for space missions,” Scuderi said. “We currently have about 150 of these [computers] in space today.”
RAD6000 microprocessors are radiation-hardened versions of the PowerPC chips that powered Macintosh computers in the early 1990s, containing 128 megabytes of random access memory and capable of carrying out about 20 million instructions per second. A critical feature of the spaceworthy chips — developed jointly by BAE Systems, JPL and the Air Force Research Laboratory — is the radiation shielding, which uses a series of resistors and capacitors to ground harmful radiation before it can damage onboard electronics.
I realize the Mars mission is old news by now, but I’ve been incommunicado for the past few weeks, and am just now getting a look at some of the images sent back from The Red Planet… How very cool!