It appears a bit odd, then, that it makes use of such an previous expertise; in line with Dashevsky and Balzano, the language the scripts are written in is named Nombas ScriptEase 5.00e. According to Nombas’ (now-defunct) website, the newest replace to ScriptEase 5.00e was launched in January 2003 — sure, nearly 20 years in the past. There are individuals who can vote who weren’t born when the software program controlling among the JWST’s most significant devices got here out.
This data has been effervescent up on the web in Hacker News and Twitter threads for years, however it nonetheless stunned fairly just a few of us right here at The Verge as soon as it really clicked. At first blush, it simply appears odd that such an important (to not point out expensive) piece of scientific gear could be managed by a really previous model of a expertise that’s not significantly recognized for being sturdy.
After serious about it for a second, although, the software program’s age makes a bit extra sense — whereas the JWST was launched in late 2021, the undertaking has been within the works since 1989. When building on the telescope started in 2004, ScriptEase 5 would’ve solely been round two years previous, having launched in 2002. That’s really not significantly previous, on condition that spacecraft are often powered by tried-and-true technology as an alternative of the newest and biggest. Because of how lengthy initiatives just like the JWST take to (literally) get off the bottom, issues that needed to be locked in early on can appear outdated by extra standard requirements when launch day rolls round.
This data base, by the way in which, additionally incorporates just a few extra particulars on the telescope’s 68 GB SSD, saying that it will probably maintain someplace between 58.8 and 65 gigabytes of precise scientific knowledge. Wait, did I overlook to say that? Yes, this telescope’s stable state drive has across the identical capability because the one which was obtainable in the original 2008 MacBook Air.
Well, NASA’s doc says that this manner of doing issues provides “operations personnel greater visibility, control and flexibility over the telescope operations,” letting them simply change the scripts “as they learn the ramifications and subtleties of operating the instruments.” Basically, NASA’s working with a bunch of information which are written in a considerably human-readable format — if they should make modifications, they’ll simply open up a textual content editor, do a bunch of testing on the bottom, then ship the up to date file to the JWST. It’s actually simpler (and due to this fact seemingly much less error-prone) than if each program was written in arcane code that you simply’d must recompile in case you needed to make modifications.