WTF?! There aren’t many reasons why the system you’re using will still run an OS designed in Windows 98, but here’s one: it’s been traveling in space for the past 19 years. Thankfully, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe is getting a major software update that will allow it to look below the surface of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than previously possible.

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The Mars Express mission was launched on June 2, 2003 – that’s 19 years ago. This means that Mars Express and its water probe MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) are running software developed using Windows 98.

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The new software, developed by the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and Carlo Nenna, MARSIS Airborne Software Engineer at Enginium, includes updates designed to improve signal reception and onboard data processing, which should increase the quantity and quality of data sent. return to Earth, according to the ESA mail.

“A very old development environment required setting up a Windows 98 machine. I did it with a virtual machine in VirtualBox,” Nenna said. Register.

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“The hard task was just to find a way to exchange files between the host and the guest machine. Installing common things like a working web browser or source code editor was also a challenge. It took almost two months to set up and fully test the development environment. .”

Mars Express is often remembered for its Beagle 2 lander, which was delivered by the mission to the red planet on December 19, 2003. There was no communication from the lander at the expected time of landing on Mars, and it was considered lost until January. 2015, when images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera showed it landed safely. It turned out that two of its four solar panels had failed, blocking the ship’s communications antenna and frustrating conspiracy theorists everywhere.

This is not the first example of legacy systems still using legacy hardware/software. Boeing 747s receive critical upgrades via floppy disk in 2020, and the US military has just announced that it is phasing out ancient storage devices for its nuclear weapons systems in 2019.