Faced with severe budget cutbacks, NASA has turned to Apple for help with its next Mars lander.
The “iRover” is built upon iPad technology. It offers more features than the Curiosity vehicle currently exploring Mars, yet it will save NASA more than $300 million.
In fact, the new rover itself will only cost NASA $299. It’s the apps that will allow Apple to further enrich itself.
Per its usual policy, Apple will take a 30% cut of all apps offered at the new “Extraterrestrial Exploration” section of the App Store. Current choices include:
- SoilSucker. Ingests soil; analyzes for organic carbon compounds. $69.95 million.
- QuenchBot. Tests for evidence of water up to one billion years ago. $99.95 million.
- RoverTurn. A free app that executes a right-hand turn.
- RoverTurn Pro. Executes all other turns. $149.95 million.
Of course Apple retains the right to approve apps before they are made available to NASA. The App Store censors have already rejected DirtyDirt, an app that would have used iRover’s robotic arm to etch pornographic images into the Martian soil.
Thanks to the familiar iPad interface, NASA will be able to save even more on personnel. For starters, the Jet Propulsion Lab is history. Over 400 technicians once required to run a Mars mission will be replaced by four Pasadena retirees working on iPads at home.
Apple’s participation will also radically modernize the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. For only 99 cents, the SETI organization will sponsor the installation of iRover’s Words With Martians app. Various SETI listening posts around the world will monitor transmissions to detect when and if anyone (or anything) on the Martian surface starts a game.
A spokesperson for SETI expressed hope that “if intelligent life is discovered, it won’t be so intelligent that we can’t whoop it at Words.”