Yesterday, the world got its first high-resolution images of Pluto, as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approached the dwarf planet after its initial launch in 2006. The spacecraft traveled 4 billion miles into the solar system and beamed images 4 billion miles back, but what you may not know is that this momentous probe dons the same CPU as the original PlayStation.
Look, we’re not saying a PlayStation went into space and took pictures of Pluto, but that’s pretty much what happened, if we’re being super unrealistic.
Unlike the MIPS R3000 CPU in your PlayStation, the chip used in New Horizon was a radiation-hardened version dubbed “Mongoose-V.”
So why is NASA, a leader in space exploration, utilizing a chip introduced in the 1980s? The processor’s time-tested reliability is of much more value to the delicate programs than cutting-edge technology. In fact, NASA’s Orion runs on a 12-year old single-core processor that’s less powerful than your smartphone.
So the next time you see news about a breakthrough space program, just think, “my PlayStation could do that.” You’d be completely wrong, of course, but you can think that.