The experienced ship Mars Expresswhich has among its milestones the discovery of a huge underground aquifer of liquid water on Mars in 2018 and which has been in orbit for 19 years, has received a software update, from Windows 98.
A statement from the European Space Agency (ESA) states that “the MARSIS instrument on ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, famous for its role in the discovery of signs of liquid water on the Red Planetis receiving a major software update that will allow you to see below the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before.”
The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding instrument (MARSIS) on Mars Express was crucial in the search for and discovery of signs of liquid water on Mars, including a suspected 20 by 30 km saltwater lake buried under 1.5 km of ice in the south polar region.
“After decades of fruitful science and having gained a good understanding of Mars, we wanted to push instrument performance beyond some of the limitations required when the mission began,” says Andrea Cicchetti, MARSIS Deputy PI and Operations Manager for Mars. INAF, who led the development of the update.
“We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” says Carlo Nenna, MARSIS Onboard Software Engineer at Enginium, who is deploying the update. “Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed more than 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!”
The new software was co-designed by the INAF team and Carlo, and is now being implemented on Mars Express by ESA. It includes a number of upgrades that improve onboard signal reception and data processing to increase the quantity and quality of science data sent back to Earth.