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Xbox 360 is More Powerful Than Space Shuttle Computer

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 73 comments

Of course, it is an old computer...

It's the end of a era now that NASA's ended the space shuttle program. The sort of technology needed to send man (and woman) into space must be more advanced than anything we use at home, right? Not exactly.

The Xbox 360 that you have set up next to your TV may be nearly six years old, but believe it or not, it's got more computational power than the computer aboard the space shuttle.

According to some space shuttle facts from the Huntsville Times, the Xbox 360 is more powerful than the flight computer – by a significant magnitude.

The flight computer aboard the space shuttle has less than one percent of the power of an Xbox 360 game console. Astronauts load programs directing the phases of a mission - liftoff, orbit, landing - into the computer one at a time after removing the program for the previous segment. Why hasn't NASA upgraded the computer? The agency values its 30-year history of reliability. That said, astronauts don't go into space with only one computer. Crew laptops and other laptops also make the trip.

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Top Comments
  • 59 Hide
    garage1217 , August 7, 2011 5:40 PM
    Well just ask yourself... would you trust your life to the reliability of an xbox 360? lol
  • 30 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2011 5:51 PM
    This is so incredibly old - you do not need a gaming tier computer or render farm to operate a shuttle.

    The military also uses old computers for many tasks. Use the right tool for the right job.
  • 25 Hide
    amigafan , August 7, 2011 5:53 PM
    Indeed Red Ring of Death would also mean your death :p 
Other Comments
    Display all 73 comments.
  • 59 Hide
    garage1217 , August 7, 2011 5:40 PM
    Well just ask yourself... would you trust your life to the reliability of an xbox 360? lol
  • 22 Hide
    skaz , August 7, 2011 5:42 PM
    So does this mean my PC can create a portal to the past and future? Just wondering.
  • 30 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2011 5:51 PM
    This is so incredibly old - you do not need a gaming tier computer or render farm to operate a shuttle.

    The military also uses old computers for many tasks. Use the right tool for the right job.
  • 25 Hide
    amigafan , August 7, 2011 5:53 PM
    Indeed Red Ring of Death would also mean your death :p 
  • 20 Hide
    burnley14 , August 7, 2011 5:59 PM
    I remember hearing once that my TI-84 graphing calculator was more powerful than the computer that landed the Apollo 11 shuttle on the moon. If that's true, this certainly doesn't surprise me.
  • 8 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , August 7, 2011 6:03 PM
    As far as I know, spacecraft computers were never 'strong'... the Moon crafts had like 128KB RAM or something? Don't remember the exact number, just know it was ridiculously small. So, most likely, even a P4 is more powerful than a space shuttle computer.
  • 9 Hide
    Darkk , August 7, 2011 6:12 PM
    Well, the computer onboard the space shuttle is custom built and designed specifically for it. This isn't a your typical PC that you can buy, even 30 years ago. Despite it's age it's pretty damn reliable for running that long.

    Some missions today are using standard off the shelf stuff. Look at the success of the rover missions on Mars.

    So I wouldn't be surprised if the space hubble is still being powered by an old 486 processor. Pretty advanced for it's time, very obsolete by today's standards.

  • 19 Hide
    Zagen30 , August 7, 2011 6:33 PM
    The project manager on the Mars rover project spoke at my college a few years ago and explained why the rovers have relatively old and "underpowered" computing resources: chips that were designed to run just fine on earth may be too easily damaged in drastically different environmental conditions of space and other planets, and that older technology is actually hardier and less likely to be damaged by things like vastly more intense cosmic rays. While that's not exactly the same situation as the space shuttles, there were probably similar concerns with them.

    Considering how complicated a shuttle launch is, I would stick with a tried-and-true method.
  • 11 Hide
    bak0n , August 7, 2011 6:44 PM
    Every single one of my 8 p.c.'s is more powerful than an xbox 360. That means very little.
  • 11 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2011 6:49 PM
    The real question is if the shuttle has an app store and who is it backing in the HTML5 vs Flash debate?
  • -4 Hide
    drwho1 , August 7, 2011 6:51 PM
    Even my PS3 is years ahead of the 360, but it doesn't mean ****, after all both platforms are only good as the games that you play on them.

  • 12 Hide
    nekoangel , August 7, 2011 7:02 PM
    Doesnt the space shuttle use 486's. I remember years back NASA was looking to buy more new in box 486's for the shuttle as their supply was getting short.
  • 7 Hide
    jhansonxi , August 7, 2011 7:15 PM
    DarkkWell, the computer onboard the space shuttle is custom built and designed specifically for it. This isn't a your typical PC that you can buy, even 30 years ago. Despite it's age it's pretty damn reliable for running that long. Some missions today are using standard off the shelf stuff. Look at the success of the rover missions on Mars. So I wouldn't be surprised if the space hubble is still being powered by an old 486 processor. Pretty advanced for it's time, very obsolete by today's standards.
    Likely correct. It's fault-tolerant and probably uses relatively large die features so as to limit the effect of cosmic rays. It's also radiation-hardened.
  • 11 Hide
    calmstateofmind , August 7, 2011 7:25 PM
    The only programs their computers run are trajectory simulations and real time updates of those courses. It's not like they need a 1080p display of a white line on a black background...
  • 0 Hide
    liveonc , August 7, 2011 7:28 PM
    Brings to mind, do we need better hardware or better software, & do we need to choose?
  • -4 Hide
    nevertell , August 7, 2011 7:48 PM
    Dedicated systems have lower hardware requirements to achieve the same "work" performance. NEWS HERE!!!

  • 0 Hide
    pepe2907 , August 7, 2011 7:48 PM
    "So, most likely, even a P4 is more powerful than a space shuttle computer."
    They were contracted in the early 70's and first started to fly in early 80s /first one was Columbia in 81st if I am not wrong. Originally were equipped with 8086 processors as I remember. So they were WAY less powerfull as a P4 :) 
  • -2 Hide
    lathe26 , August 7, 2011 7:59 PM
    Originally it was reported that shuttle had around as much processing power as an Apple IIe. If those reports were accurate, than an Box 360 would be expected to run circles around the shuttle computer.

    Regarding Apollo, the memory would have closer to 128 bytes than 128KB. I don't know the exact number.
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