PlayStation CPU Powering Probe Travelling Towards Pluto
MIPS R3000 CPU used in original PlayStation is being used to transmit data about Pluto back to Earth.
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The New Horizons space probe which recently completed a flyby of Pluto and beamed new images of the planet back to Earth is being guided by the same CPU which powered the original PlayStation console. As reported by The Verge, the probe contains a MIPS R3000 CPU, repurposed to "fire thrusters, monitor sensors, and transmit data."
The same CPU was used in the original PlayStation console, which was first released in 1994 and ran at 33.8688MHz. It was implemented by NASA scientists in the New Horizons Space Probe, which was launched in 2006 and has travelled more than three billion miles in its journey.
According to The Verge, NASA has always preferred hardware that has been "tried-and-tested" over newer technology, which may be riskier to use. Reliability is prioritised over power, which is why a 12-year-old CPU was used, with a few tweaks made to help with surviving in space.
Various gaming hardware have been employed by NASA in its past projects, including use of the Kinect and Oculus Rift to control a robotic arm in real time. NASA has also revealed plans to use Microsoft's Hololens augmented reality headset in the International Space Station, where it will provide support and guidance for day-to-day actions.