The New Horizons spacecraft has made it to Pluto, and it used PlayStation technology to do it. Actually, it’s been in space for almost a decade, which is why it’s the original PlayStation CPU, but New Horizons has finally gotten to the dwarf planet (and sent us some incredible pictures).
The same MIPS R3000 CPU that was used in the original PlayStation was repurposed by NASA back in 2006 to fire thrusters, monitor sensors, and transmit data from the probe back to Earth. It’s been radiation-hardened, of course. Apparently this isn’t unusual behavior for NASA. The agency prefers to use trusted—and reliable—technology rather than cutting-edge stuff that we don’t know works. I imagine it’s especially important for decades-long missions through billions of miles of space. And hey, I’m the same way. I adore my smartphone, but if I were on a deserted island for 10 years, I’d bring my old battle-hardened Nokia. (This deserted island has a phone charger, I guess.)
The probe, which is roughly the size of a piano, carries Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes; he was the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930. New Horizons isn’t done with its journey, though. After exploring Pluto and its moons, it will (hopefully, with NASA’s approval) go on to gather information on the Kuiper Belt, a massive asteroid belt on the edge of our Solar System.