Ok, this title is a bit misleading, but it’s true in a way. An ordinary iPhone 4S has a CPU with 800 MHz while Curiosity’s CPU is ticking at a mere 200 MHz. That means the iPhone has 4 times the processing power of Curiosity!
Why would NASA use such weak hardware for a rover it’s sending to Mars? There’s two main reasons:
First, 200 MHz is enough power to accomplish the requested tasks. Second, there’s another critical factor: reliability. It’s absolutely important that Curiosity’s hardware is able to withstand extreme temperatures and cosmic radiation (Mars is being constantly bombarded by charged particles from space). NASA just can’t allow that Curiosity stops working because of a hardware failure.
That’s why you won’t find the most recent cutting-edge CPUs in spaceflight. NASA rather uses older models which have proven to be stable and reliable. For Curiosity, they chose a 200MHz PowerPC 750 CPU (the same Apple had in it’s 1997 PowerBook G3 models). And of course there’s a back-up computer on board, in case the main one fails.
Below is a hardware comparison between Curiosity and an iPhone 4S. How does it feel knowing that your iPhone has more CPU power than Curiosity?