A G3 iMac processor is powering the Mars Perseverance Rover
Give or take a few modifications…
What you need to know
- A PowerPC 750 is the chipset at the heart of NASA’s Perseverance Rover.
- That’s the same processor that was used in the G3 iMac in 1998.
- The Perseverance version has been modified to withstand the freezing temperatures of Mars.
A new report has revealed that the chipset at the heart of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover is the same PowerPC 750 from the 1998 iMac G3.
From New Scientist:
Remember the colourful iMac computers from the late 1990s? The same processor that powered those is being used to run NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover.
This processor, which is also being used in the Curiosity rover, has just 10.4 million transistors – even affordable smartphones now have more than 1000 times as many. So why is such old technology used in a cutting-edge space exploration mission?
The PowerPC 750 was the same processor used by Apple back in the 1998 G3 iMac, PowerPC being the chipmaker of choice before Apple switched to Intel. As noted by Gizmodo, the 750 was a single-core processor with a whopping 233MHz clock speed. Okay, maybe not ‘whopping’.
The Mars Perseverance Rover uses a BAE Systems-made PowerPC 750 called the ‘RAD750’, capable of withstanding huge radiation doses and temperatures of between -67 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit, only slightly hotter than most Intel Macs. All of this added protection means the RAD750 costs around $200,000 to make. As noted by the report, an older processor like the 750 is the chipset of choice because of its ruggedness and reliability, rather than speed.
As reported by our friends at Space.com, Perseverance continues to make epic discoveries following its landing on Mars last month, including a rock that looks like a harbor seal!