Curiosity completes new software patch from 350 million miles away

Think updating your iPhone takes forever? Try updating the Curiosity Mars rover from 350 million miles away. That's exactly what NASA did over the course of four days last week, and it all went down without a single boo-boo.

You might be wondering, why the heck does Curiosity need a software patch already? I mean, didn't it just land on Mars successfully?

The answer to that is, given Curiosity's tightly constrained specs, it simply didn't have enough RAM to hold both the software to land alongside the software to complete its surface mission.

As for needing four days to update the rover, Wired's Klint Finley interviewed Curiosity chief software engineer Ben Cichy, who said a big part of it is needing 14 minutes to send a signal to Curiosity and 14 minutes to get a ping back. The result: an excruciatingly long wait for an update that would normally take only a few minutes to install on Earth.

According to Wired's Finley:

"On the first day of the software update, the team deployed a temporary version of the new software to the rover's primary computer. This version was only held in RAM so that the computer would revert back to the previous version when it restarted. This gave the team a chance to make sure everything was functioning properly.

On the second day the team deployed a more permanent version of the update to the computer's file system. On the third day they deployed the temporary version to the backup computer and on the fourth day they deployed the permanent version to the backup computer."

Next time you complain about that loading bar for your next software update, be happy it doesn't need to be beamed all the way to Mars and back.

Via Wired

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