This week, the eyes of the world were turned towards the sky as the New Horizons space probe completed a flyby of Pluto and sent back the first ever detailed pictures of the dwarf planet.
One would think that NASA would use only the best and most cutting-edge technology available at the time to outfit the spacecraft with. However, it turns out that the CPU guiding New Horizons is the same as the one used in the original Sony PlayStation.
The CPU in question is known as the MIPS R3000. Operating at a whopping 12 MHz, the MIPS R3000 is good enough to “fire thrusters, monitor sensors, and transmit data from the New Horizons space probe.”
Why did NASA decide to use such an antiquated CPU on a space probe launched in 2006? According to The Verge, NASA prefers the “tried-and-tested” to the cutting-edge. Instead of relying on newer but riskier technology, NASA decided to use one that has been proven to be reliable by years of commercial use. The MIPS R3000 only received a few tweaks to help it survive the radiation of outer space.
The original PlayStation helped usher in the era of 3D graphics in gaming, now its CPU is helping humanity expand their knowledge of the cosmos.
Source: The Verge