If you own any kind of computing device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, you know sooner or later that you’re going to have to update or install new software to keep it functioning.
The same thing can also be said about spacecraft that have been in service for a while.
The European Space Agency recently had to install upgraded software for its Mars Express orbiter that has been circling the Red Planet for nearly 15 years.
According to the space agency, the software update they installed was designed to help the Mars Express spacecraft compensate for some of its various components that have begun to wear out.
ESA reports that generally speaking, their Mars Express orbiter is in good operating condition, but its gyroscopes are close to failing.
The European Mars Probe was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on June 2, 2003, and dropped into orbit around the Red Planet just a bit over six months later – on Christmas Day (December 25), 2003.
The space agency said that the orbiter’s mission was only supposed to last 2 years, but it has continued to operate and send back valuable data on Mars for about 12 years longer.
According to ESA, the Mars Express has been taking high-resolution images of much of the Red Planet’s surface, identifying surface minerals that form only in the presence of water and detecting hints of atmospheric methane as well as performing close flybys of Mar’s mysterious moon, Phobos.