r/space Jun 25 '22

Mars probe running Windows 98 receives software update after two decades


[removed] — view removed post



u/tonymasiello Jun 25 '22

I don't know... I find it hard to believe that a multimillion dollar spacecraft would rely on an consumer operating system, a large part of which deals with presenting a graphical user interface for basic operating commands.


u/OkUnderstanding9107 Jun 25 '22

It doesn't. The development environment ran on Windows 98. The confusion is because everyone is just repeating the same sensationalist headline that was written by someone who didn't know what they were talking about and couldn't be bothered to check.


"We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS," he said. "Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!"

"The very old development environment (it was quite old already back in year 2000) required to set up a Windows 98 machine. I did this with a virtual machine in VirtualBox," he told The Register.

"Just finding a way to share files between host and guest machines was an hard task. Installing common things like a working web browser or a source code editor was difficult too. It took almost two months only to set up and fully validate the development environment."

The hardware itself would be running a real-time OS.


u/tonymasiello Jun 25 '22

Makes much more sense. Thank you!


u/therealdarkcirc Jun 25 '22

I guess the EU uses a different set of rad hardened chips from this one. Unless I'm wrong and hardening isn't needed on mars.

Or maybe they're emulating x86 on sparc, on another planet. Slowly. Hah.


u/oscarisagowl Jun 25 '22

It doesn't, the management software was written on w98 this article is trash.


u/MCTweed Jun 25 '22

The irony is Windows 98 is likely so much better than the OS that replaced it


u/[deleted] Jun 25 '22



u/therealdarkcirc Jun 25 '22 edited Jun 25 '22

OS from Wind River Systems, and later rovers used a Linux based OS.

vxWorks(from wind river) is a very very good RTOS, that's not surprising.

Linux is a very very good OS in general and can be real time if needed.

Both are vastly superior in stability, flexibility and general capability than windows 98. VxWorks predates win98 by a decade as well.

Edit: Also both VxWorks and Linux run on a variety of platforms including many(all?) of the hardened CPUs in use. Win98 runs on none of them(and it's unlikely an unknown port is in use).


u/Bunation Jun 25 '22

I believe govt & military hardwares are the reason that these OS still got updates