Mars Express spacecraft receives an in-orbit upgrade
ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft is receiving a major upgrade to its software that will prolong its life span for many years. The space agency installed the software update on Sunday into the computers of the deep space probe, where it will be stored in memory up until the scheduled restart date of April 16. The update, if successful, will relieve some of the strain on the old gyroscopes that keep the high-gain antenna pointed at Earth by the unmanned spacecraft.
Software updates are an everyday occurrence for anyone who uses digital devices. The Mars orbiting spacecraft is no different. They have aging electronics and need to be updated with new instructions for worn-out components after years heavy use.
Mars Express is the oldest mission to Mars still in operation. The orbiter was launched on June 2, 2003 atop a Soyuz FG rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome. It arrived on Mars on December 25, 2003. It has spent the last 14 years orbiting Mars, taking photos and collecting a mountainous amount of scientific data that will be sent back to mission command in Darmstadt.