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I was watching the Planetfest rebroadcast of Curiosity's landing, and mention was made of there needing to be two operating systems: one to deal with entry and landing, and the other to handle roving and research. The speaker went on to say that both OSes don't fit into RAM at once, so they would have to be swapped over post-landing, and that this would take four days to load from Flash.

Raises the question: why does it take four days to swap an operating system in from Flash, and how does the system go about it while having a path to fall back?

Personal theory: The hardware used has to be low powered, and be able to withstand physical and radiological abuse. Such a system probably will not post the fastest clock cycles, what with power consumption being proportional to frequency^2 and all.

I'm also going to guess that most of the available RAM will be used for redundancy.

I'm guessing the copying doesn't take four days unless they are actually sending the program from earth, in which case ~256MB over X-band to Mars could take that long. Rather I would guess that this copy is a many step procedure they do one step at a time and confirm at every step. With a 28 minute round trip to tell the rover to do something and get a response time adds up quick.

I wonder if the time taken is because it must use very tiny amounts of power, and survive at such a low temperature. They may be using a very slow processor, or a special low-power, low-temperature NAND or whatever variant.

It depends on how one defines slow. Curiosity's onboard computer is 100x faster than the previous two Mars rovers, and has twice as much ram. But that's only 200MHz and 256MB respectively.

With the exception of Sojourner, the first rover successfully placed on Mars, all Mars rovers have run VxWorks.


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