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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Friday, October 30, 2015

If you've ever had to reformat your main hard drive, you'll appreciate this:

NASA has to totally rewrite the main and backup flash memories for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), currently in orbit around the Red Planet.

Its mission has gone on for so long (since 2005), the astronomical tables stored in memory will become obsolete next year. These tables must be replaced with new ones, so the MRO can continue to calculate its position in space.

But the only way to replace the tables is to wipe the system memory --- the figurative hard drive --- of both the primary and backup computers. This also will delete the operating system. Then, new data, and a fresh copy of the OS, have to be loaded.

And all this has to be done by the remotest of remote control, millions of miles from earth, with no one around to hit the reset button.

Yes, NASA has a careful, multi-step plan to reduce the risks. But if wiping your PC or smartphone's memory makes you nervous, just imagine how the NASA controllers will feel when they issue the "go" command.

JPL article: Rewrite of Onboard Memory Planned for NASA Mars Orbiter

MRO home page.