Linux conquers Mars: NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter accompanying Perseverance boasts Open Source heart
It was spectacular to see how the Perseverance rover landed successfully on Mars A few hours ago, and surely this NASA mission will soon give other great news in which the other main vehicle of this mission will also collaborate: the Ingenuity helicopter.
There are many curious details about this aerial vehicle, but one of the most remarkable is that is governed by the Linux operating system. NASA in fact already published the project as Open Source years ago, and this demonstrates once again the Linux miracle, which may not have conquered the desktop – a recurring joke – but has certainly already conquered Mars.
Linux, to Mars, infinity and beyond
In IEEE Spectrum, NASA JPL engineers explained how this helicopter worked, which is the size of a “tissue box” and 1.2m rotors made of carbon fiber. It only weighs 1.8 kg, but is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and flies fully autonomously because logically real-time control is unfeasible.
Ingenuity is more of an experiment than anything else, and NASA is content to be able to take some photos and perform a 90-second flight during the 30 days they have estimated for its operational life cycle. Still, the details about its hardware and software are curious, and for example the processor used is the veteran Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 which for example was used in the Samsung Galaxy S5 2014.
That processor, explained one of the JPL engineers, is much more powerful than the Perseverance rover itself, but they need that computing power to control that flight in an atmosphere as delicate as that of Mars. In addition, this SoC allows you to capture images with a 13-megapixel sensor and analyze them at 30 Hz.
In the software section, what stands out especially is that as pointed out by JPL, “this is the first time that we will fly with Linux on Mars. In fact everything is based on the Linux operating system“. The framework used in Ingenuity, called F ‘(” fprime “), already published like Open Source for years, so anyone can take advantage of it for their projects in this regard.
In fact, explained this engineer, Ingenuity is a small revolution for JPL because they tend to like components “that are very safe and have proven their effectiveness”, but in this case “this is a kind of victory for Open Source, because we fly with an Open Source operating system and an Open Source flight environment and commercially available components that you can buy in stores if you want to do something like that one day. ”
Via | IEEE Spectrum