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Linux has made it to Mars

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The Red Planet runs on Linux

Image: NASA

Yesterday, NASA landed a rover named Perseverance on Mars. I, along with 2 million other people, watched the landing happen live on YouTube. It was beautiful. I mean, here’s this little robot dude that’s traveled millions and millions of miles through the barrenness of space, and now it’s just hanging out on Mars taking pics and scientific samples! (Perseverance joins older sibling Curiosity on the surface of the Red Planet. Hope they have a nice time together!)

In any case, Perseverance didn’t traverse the vastness of space alone. Ingenuity, a tiny helicopter, tagged along for the ride. As it’s primarily a technology demonstration, Ingenuity’s destiny is to attempt the first powered flight on any planet other than Earth and to hopefully be the blueprint for future Mars missions. It’s also running on Linux.

Here’s Ingenuity!
Image: Wikipedia

“This the first time we’ll be flying Linux on Mars,” NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) senior engineer Tim Canham said in an interview with the the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). “The software framework that we’re using is one that we developed at JPL for cubesats and instruments, and we open-sourced it a few years ago.” It’s called F’ (pronounced “F prime”). The fact that it’s open source means if you want to fly with Linux here on Earth using the same software JPL does, you absolutely can.

“It’s kind of an open-source victory, because we’re flying an open-source operating system and an open-source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday,” Canham said.

Great stuff. It’s cool that Perseverance, Curiosity, and Ingenuity have all found a new home on the surface Mars. Though I still think it’s cooler that space is pretty obviously inhospitable to human life, and yet we still put people up there anyway.