For me, the highlight of the Embedded Systems Conference will forever be attending a "From the Earth to the Stars" event at The Tech Museum in San Jose jointly sponsored by IBM and Freescale Semiconductor. Armed with such munchies as M&Ms, popcorn, chips and soda, we filed into the IMAX Theatre to view IMAX film--Roving Mars.
The film documents the creation, launch, landing and progress of two Mars Rovers--Spirit and Opportunity. Built to withstand no less than 90 sols (Martian days) of scientific exploration, the duo still trek across the Red Planet after 802 sols--albeit down one wheel for Spirit. Even better than the film (which was spectacular), was the opportunity to meet Steve Squyres, scientific principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. His passion, humor, dedication, and "can do" attitude is an inspiration--it's no wonder the project was such a success.
As the lightweight rovers unfolded themselves on the planet, extended their necks, shot and transmitted the first footage from Mars, the magnitude of the feat was clear. The mission involved solving a myriad of challenges--from building the intricate machinery to shredding parachutes, bouncing airbag landings, and dust-caked solar panels that sapped the solar energy out of the rovers until a kind Martian wind interfered. Even recently, Spirit's loss of the use of one of six wheels that rendered the rover pulling one "leg" behind it sufficiently churned soils in its wake to offer further proof of the presence of water in the planet's past.
At the heart of the tiny rovers is a Rad6000 32-bit microprocessor that directs the space vehicles. The Rad6000 was the world's first radiation-hardened 32-bit microprocessor with more than one million transistors.
The event was created to feature the power architecture--on the heels of the February 6, 2006 announcement at ISSCC by Freescale that it joined the Power.org Consortium. Freescale has now joined IBM in forming a Power Architecture Advisory Council with a mission of providing a seamless compatible instruction set architecture designed to accommodate platforms scaling from low-cost, high-volume consumer electronics systems to high-performance enterprise and industrial applications.
So, thank you Freescale and IBM for hosting such a memorable event--by far the best to date.