Mars Express Is Getting A Long-Overdue Software Upgrade

A critical part of the spacecraft uses software designed on Windows 98.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is updating the software on a critical part of the Mars Express spacecraft for the first time since it was deployed to the Red Planet in 2003.

ESA says(Opens in a new window) the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument "is receiving a major software upgrade that will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before."

"We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS," Enginium's Carlo Nenna said in a statement. "

"Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!"

Enginium and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, which operates MARSIS, overcame those challenges.

ESA says that it's now implementing the updated MARSIS software on Mars Express to help it search for signs of liquid water deep beneath the planet's surface.

"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,"

" ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson said in a statement. "It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch."