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Linux lands on Mars with Perseverance and Ingenuity

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Here is your morning dose of miscellaneous Linux news. Not gaming but still very cool - Linux has officially landed on Mars with the Perseverance Rover. Before we've been able to hit that mythical year of the Linux desktop, heck before Wayland has even been able to replace X11 on Linux desktops, we have now managed to blast Linux to another planet far away.

If you're not even the slightest space nerd like me you might be a bit confused, NASA just recently landed the Perseverance Rover on the red planet. That's cool by itself but Perseverance came with a rather fancy little Helicopter named Ingenuity, which according to NASA is "the first aircraft humanity has sent to another planet to attempt powered, controlled flight".

Image Credit - Nasa

As it turns out, it's powered by your friendly neighbourhood penguin — Linux! In an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Timothy Canham who is a Embedded Flight Software Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned:

This the first time we’ll be flying Linux on Mars. We’re actually running on a Linux operating system. The software framework that we’re using is one that we developed at JPL for cubesats and instruments, and we open-sourced it a few years ago. So, you can get the software framework that’s flying on the Mars helicopter, and use it on your own project. It’s kind of an open-source victory, because we’re flying an open-source operating system and an open-source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday.

So how long will it be before there's a new game about flying a little helicopter on Mars?

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Tags: Misc
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NASA has always run a fair amount of Linux. They invented the Beowulf cluster after all, which arguably was a major impetus towards the domination of Linux in supercomputers.
F.Ultra 23 Feb
Quoting: Arehandoro
Quoting: EikeThere's no real question Linux already is dominating the world, from the smallest to the largest, from most people's pockets to even Mars.

Except one little village called desktop.

Technically, not the world but our Solar Systtem :D

Honest question: Has there ever been any mention on what kind of OS any of the other probes* had? I assume it was some bespoke system? Or maybe a Unix system? Maybe Windows even? xD

* Not only probes but also the Rover for example.

As others have already hinted at here, NASA have used VxWorks for all of the other rovers, probes and orbiters. Before that they used NASA custom computer systems without any operating system as such.
Quoting: The_Aquabatwell how much is the temperature in Mars? I bet it's far different from the standard powerpc cpu u can grab from a shop shelf.
According to data from Curiosity taken in Gale Crater from 2012–2015, on a nice warm day in the middle of Martian summer the temperature might get up to a toasty 0° C (32 °F), while during the winter it falls to an average of −88 °C (–126 °F). The record high and low temperatures during that time were 20 °C (68 °F) and −127 °C (−197 °F).

I liked what I saw on another site, "Mars is now the second planet to have more computers running Linux than Windows."
Eike 23 Feb
Quoting: PhiladelphusI liked what I saw on another site, "Mars is now the second planet to have more computers running Linux than Windows."

2 - 0
whizse 23 Feb
  • Supporter
Going all the way to Mars is cool as heck, but there's actually quite a bit of history with Linux, specifically Debian and space:

It was used on the space shuttle to run a hydroponics experiment all the way back in 1997. (Debian was four years old at the time.)

Debian was used as the official OS for laptops on the ISS back in 2013.
dubigrasu 23 Feb
And this one:

QuoteThe 330-pound Robonaut 2 measures 3 feet, 4 inches tall from the waist, and is equipped with more than 350 sensors. It uses Ubuntu control software, and appears to run another type of embedded Linux on its 38 PowerPC-based processors, which make up the “brain” located in its stomach.
CFWhitman 23 Feb
Quoting: scaine
Quoting: mirv
Quoting: scaineI was reading about Ingenuity's flight time recently. It's a trial flight only and expected to last only 90 seconds before crashing back to the planet surface.

From the solar panels, I kind of naively assumed that it was intended to stay airborne... forever! Perhaps docking back with Perseverance in the event of a storm, before buzzing back into the skies to provide aerial support for Perseverance's next foray around the crater.

Nope. 90 seconds, a bunch of data collected, crashing far, far away from Perseverance where it has no risk of damaging the main star of the show!!

Still an amazing accomplishment if they get it airborne though, given the atmosphere - the helicopter blades need to spin insanely fast in order to generate any lift! If it gets 10 seconds of airtime, I imagine the engineers will be delighted!

That's a little different to what they said on the livestream (5 flights planned in total). Starved for interesting news like this, must find more!

Interesting! The Wikipedia article alludes to multiple flights too - each of which may last up to 90 seconds. Huh. I got my info from a Discovery Channel thing that was running a couple of nights ago. Fingers crossed it lands safely enough to recharge and take off again. God, it'll only take one high-wind landing to potentially scupper it!

I'd say the Discovery Channel reference got correct information and read a bit too much into it. The first flight is supposed to be very short, but the idea is for it to land safely rather than crash and make four more planned flights to be considered a fully successful mission. After that, any more flights they get out of it are just icing on the cake no more flights will be possible (see below).

Edit: Apparently, by what I've read further (actually, my original comments were my impression after seeing a video interview with a woman on the Ingenuity team), three successful flights will be enough for Ingenuity to be considered a complete success, and the fourth and fifth flights will be icing on the cake. After that Perseverance will leave the area and they will no longer be able to relay flight plans to Ingenuity even if it's still working. So one successful flight is a partial success; three is a full success, and five is the most they will have any opportunity to do.

Last edited by CFWhitman on 24 February 2021 at 12:18 pm UTC
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