It appears a bit odd, then, that it makes use of such an outdated know-how; in line with Dashevsky and Balzano, the language the scripts are written in is known as Nombas ScriptEase 5.00e. In accordance with Nombas’ (now-defunct) web site, the most recent replace to ScriptEase 5.00e was launched in January 2003 — sure, virtually 20 years in the past. There are individuals who can vote who weren’t born when the software program controlling a few of the JWST’s most important devices got here out.
This data has been effervescent up on the web in Hacker Information and Twitter threads for years, nevertheless it nonetheless stunned fairly a couple of of us right here at The Verge as soon as it truly clicked. At first blush, it simply appears odd that such a significant (to not point out costly) piece of scientific tools can be managed by a really outdated model of a know-how that’s not notably recognized for being sturdy.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 challenge has been within the works since 1989. When development on the telescope began in 2004, ScriptEase 5 would’ve solely been round two years outdated, having launched in 2002. That’s truly not notably outdated, on condition that spacecraft are usually powered by tried-and-true know-how as an alternative of the most recent and biggest. Due to how lengthy initiatives just like the JWST take to (actually) get off the bottom, issues that needed to be locked in early on can appear outdated by extra typical requirements when launch day rolls round.
This data base, by the best way, additionally comprises a couple of extra particulars on the telescope’s 68 GB SSD, saying that it could maintain someplace between 58.8 and 65 gigabytes of precise scientific knowledge. Wait, did I overlook to say that? Sure, this telescope’s strong state drive has across the identical capability because the one which was obtainable in the unique 2008 MacBook Air.
Nicely, NASA’s doc says that this manner of doing issues offers “operations personnel better visibility, management and adaptability over the telescope operations,” letting them simply change the scripts “as they be taught the ramifications and subtleties of working the devices.” Mainly, NASA’s working with a bunch of recordsdata which might be written in a considerably human-readable format — if they should make adjustments, they will 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 definitely simpler (and subsequently probably much less error-prone) than if each program was written in arcane code that you just’d need to recompile if you happen to wished to make adjustments.