Linux has made it to Mars

NASA landed a rover named Perseverance on Mars. I, along with 2 million other people, watched the landing happen live on YouTube.

In its bid to use software that was “safe and proven”, NASA turned to Linux and open source. “This the first time we’ll be flying Linux on Mars,” said Tim Canham, Mars Helicopter Operations Lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in a discussion with IEEE Spectrum.

Without going into too much detail, Canham mentioned that the flight software framework NASA is using on the tiny helicopter dubbed Ingenuity, that’s tucked under the Perseverance Mars rover, was originally developed for miniature satellites called CubeSats.

The multi-platform framework called F´ (pronounced F prime) was open sourced by JPL a few years back. The project is actively developed and while it was originally tailored for small-scale spaceflight systems, it is now part of the autonomous little helicopter that’ll be flying around on the red planet.

“It’s kind of an open-source victory, because we’re flying an open-source operating system and an open-source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday,” said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) senior engineer Tim Canham.

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