Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

New Horizons, Old Science—Recycling the Old Playstation Processor

Jan 16, 2015 07:30 PM EST

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New Horizons Probe
(Photo : Bernt Rostad/Flickr )

Recycling has become the epitome of the green movement. In any way, shape or form, reusing materials that have already been produced and manufactured is crucial in decreasing the human species' carbon footprint. But, when it comes to recycling technology, we don't normally associate the practice with functional processors and CPU's; technology now-a-days seems to become obsolete as soon as it's unveiled or released for public consumption. But NASA seems to have ignored that latter thought. It's most recent mission to explore and photograph the outer-reaches of our solar system will be spearheaded by a probe, containing the same processor found in the 1996 PlayStation console.

NASA's appropriately named "New Horizons" probe left our Earth in 2006 and will reach Pluto's orbit in early-to-mid July. And at over $600 million dollars, it's an expensive endeavor.

The processor found in the New Horizon prob, the Mongoose-V processor, is an iteration of the same processor that was found in the now-antiquated PlayStation console. But this doesn't mean the processor is not suited for the tasks at hand, onboard the probe.

"The Mongoose-V processor analyzes positional information, distributes operating commands to multiple spacecraft subsystems, collects and processes instrument data, and sends bursts of data back to Earth," owner of MIPS Imagination Technologies, who worked with NASA in its development stages, Alexandru Voica says. "It also runs an advanced autonomy algorithm that allows the probe to auto-correct any issues or contact operators on Earth for help."

Operating at just 12MHZ, it's not only adequate for the mission but also operates at a low-voltage setting. This power-saving processor is ideal for such long-range missions. And on board the New Horizons probe there are actually two computers, each running the Mongoose-V processor at their cores.

And, just like the console which the probe adopted its processor from, New Horizons' data-logged information and analysis will be a game-changer.

"Planetary exploration is a historic endeavor and a major focus of NASA" spokespersons for the New Horizons: NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission said in a recent press release. "New Horizons is designed to help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of Pluto and Charon - a 'double planet' and the last planet in our solar system to be visited by spacecraft. Then, as part of an extended mission, New Horizons would visit one or more objects in the Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune."

Pluto was denounced from being what we formally define as a "planet" to a "dwarf planet" in 2006.

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