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NASA Struggles to Fix Hubble Space Telescope’s 1980s Computer

Did anybody else see this week’s news about problems with Hubble’s 80s-vintage onboard computer and think: *gasp* My moment in life has arrived! Hold my beer.

“Hello, NASA? Did you guys try PR#6? Sometimes the boot disk gets dust on it; ask an astronaut to blow it off and then reboot. Hello? Hello? Why did they hang up?”

The Hubble’s computer is actually an NSSC-1, an 18-bit machine with 64KB memory. The version on Hubble is likely built from a few dozen discrete MSI chips. There are two fully redundant computers on board, and four independent 64KB memory modules, any of which can be enabled or disabled from the ground in the event of a problem. But 30 years of bombardment by cosmic rays will take a toll on the hardware.

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