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Mars probe gets Windows 98 update
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Updates in space! Mars probe gets an upgrade from Windows 98 software

We constantly remind you to keep your devices and gadgets updated, but there comes a time when that’s not enough.

Companies eventually drop support for older products and you’ll stop getting software updates. This can be dangerous, as those updates contain vital security patches, and without them, you’re vulnerable to cyberattacks. Tap or click here for outdated tech devices you need to get rid of.

On June 2, 2003, the European Space Agency (ESA) began a mission to explore signs of water on Mars. The spacecraft runs on software developed using Windows 98, and now, after nearly 20 years, it’s getting an update.

Mars Express has an excuse

We’ll forgive the Mars Express for being a little out of date. Its onboard instruments were developed using Windows 98, which was still quite popular at the time of launch (Microsoft dropped support for the OS in 2006).

Singer/songwriter/astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted about the update this week:

“We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding),” software engineer Carlo Nenna states in ESA’s blog post. “Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!”

The new software was designed by Carlo and the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF). The upgrades will improve signal reception and data processing, which should result in better data sent back to Earth.

“The new software will help us more quickly and extensively study these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch,” ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson said.

mars express probe over water on mars
© ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin-G.Neukum | Esa.int

MARSIS sends low-frequency radio waves toward Mars via a 40-meter long (about 130 feet) antenna. MARSIS discovered an underground reservoir on the Red Planet in 2018 and has since discovered three more water sources.

Which Windows are you on?

We doubt too many of our readers are still running Windows 98, but you have no excuse if a spaceship 140 million miles away can get an update.

Are you still running Windows 7? Microsoft ended support for this OS in January 2020, and we urge you to upgrade as soon as possible.

Windows 10 was offered as a free update for some time, but those days are over. You can upgrade for $139, but Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 10 in October 2025. You’re better off getting a Windows 11 PC.

If you’re running Windows 10, you may be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11. Go to microsoft.com/en-us/windows/get-windows-11 and click the Check For Compatibility button. If your PC meets the system requirements to upgrade to Windows 11, you’ll be able to download and install the new OS.

Keep reading

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