The Curiosity rover completed its Mars landing recently after a journey that took the better part of nine months and 350 million miles. It took years of planning and research to ensure that the rover completed its journey, but the real mission is only just beginning. The Curiosity is set to explore Mars’ Gale Crater to help earthlings understand the nature of the red planet, and if life ever existed there. In order to do this, it has been equipped with some amazing technology. However, the Curiosity’s remarkable hardware requires software to work properly. Interestingly, the Curiosity did not reach the surface of Mars with the software required to explore the planet. In fact, one of the first things the Curiosity performed upon its arrival was a software update.

Personal computer users are familiar with software updates. In the past, users needed to update their devices with physical media, but as technology has advanced, it has allowed users to download software without the need for disks, flash drives or even wired connections. Now, users can simply update their software over the air. The Curiosity is much like a modern personal computer in this way. When it was sent into space, it contained basic software that gave it the capabilities to land and acclimate itself to the Martian surface. Once it landed, however, it required an over-the-air software update in order for it to use its robotic arm. The updates allowed the rover to process images more accurately and detect oncoming objects more effectively, as well.

Anyone who has owned a personal computer knows what it is like to deal with restricted hard drive space. Just as many devices used in homes and offices, the Curiosity’s storage data space is finite. Even with the world’s most advanced technology, available data storage space in the unit is limited. This is why the Curiosity was launched with only the software needed to make its landing. Once the Curiosity reached its destination, however, the old software could be deleted to make room for the new software. This process was incredibly similar to the installation of a new personal computer operating system through an Internet connection.

The act of giving the Curiosity this so-called brain transplant from 350 million miles away is an aspect of its mission that will certainly have an impact on how earthlings operate their technology. While data transfer rates over common computer networks have become tremendously fast, the technology used to deliver a major software update to Mars will surely lead to further innovations in the efficiency of transmitting data. With additional implementation of this type of technology on Earth, Internet speeds could become faster, and the costs associated with transferring data could drop significantly. Once the Curiosity completed its Mars landing, citizens of Earth looked forward to the promise of astonishing Martian discoveries, but the most remarkable aspect of the mission may prove to be the impact of its extraordinary interstellar software update.

Interesting . . . what do you think will be next in the exploration of the Final Frontier?