International Space Station ditches Windows for Linux

Sebastian Anthony, ExtremeTech:

The United Space Alliance, which manages the computers aboard the International Space Station in association with NASA, has announced that the Windows XP computers aboard the ISS have been switched to Linux. “We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable.”

If they wanted reliability, why didn’t they switch to OS X instead?


  • Guest

    Apparently the trained astronauts couldn’t locate the start button for hell or high water.

  • The comments in that article are about what you’d expect from an announcement like that.

    • GTWilson

      There’s no way I am going near the comments.

      I suspect it resembles “West Side Story” as interpreted by borderline autistics and neckbeards.

      • Pretty much, except that “I Feel Pretty” and “Maria” have been replaced with a “Developers, Developers, Developers” remix and the Free Software song.

  • “If they wanted reliability, why didn’t they switch to OS X instead?”

    I agree. Replacing all their hardware with Apple branded kit would have been a small price to pay for the reliability of OS X glossy overcoating the unix underpinnings.

  • Hope they enjoy writing device drivers for the remote manipulator arm.

    • GTWilson

      “Houston, arm is in place but we get a segfault when attempting to grip. Please advise. Over”

      “This is an issue with libgrippy-0.98 and we’ve sent a bug report to the maintainer. We’re checking bugzilla for a status update…and…The maintainer has marked it WORKSFORME. Suggest you try kdeklutch or gnome-fondle.”

      “Houston, we can’t get X11 configured. Over.”

      “Can you just try…you know…bumping whatever the heck it is you are manipulating into position? Over.”

  • guest_dingus

    Mac Pro, two Mac Minis, MacBook Air 11″, 5 iPhones, 2 AppleTVs, Aperture, Logic, and FInal Cut Pro X in my house. But i’m also a former government program manager – and i would never recommend the government use anything that they didn’t have total control over – that is to say, the source code. I once was forced to build something with DOS 3.31 in 2002 because the driver software i needed was not open source. This is a smart move. Using closed systems may be fine for me when i’m making a video, but its absolutely no go if i’m running a multi-billion anything on it.

    • Thanks. I’m sure we all appreciate the detailed inventory of the Apple products you own. It’s indeed impressive, and definitely validates you as someone who is permitted to talk down about Apple in specific instances such as the one you outlined. Voted up.

    • I doubt they’re running on commodity hardware anyway. It’s probably ruggedized, and probably offers redundancies, easily-swapped spare parts, etc.

      The service at an Apple Store is great. But maybe you’re too busy, or maybe you’re just too far to be convenient. Orbit seems to satisfy both of those.

  • Lukas

    You can’t legally “switch to OS X” without also replacing all of your hardware. You’d expect a Mac publication to realize this 😛

    • You can’t write anything on the internet without someone misconstruing the intent.

      You’d think a user of the internet would know this.

  • Terry Maraccini

    I heard this changeover was going to cost them a (Linux)Mint.

    Ok, sorry, it’s Friday and I am tired.

  • Think about it. Who really wants to open windows on a space station.

    • Buckeyestar

      Lol, nice one.

  • stoneymonster

    Funny, when it’s Windows evangelists using the same ridiculous arguments against MacOS everyone gets upset. A lot of Mac faithful are all too happy to act in exactly the same way when promoting their preferred OS.

    Guess what? Sometimes things you love aren’t appropriate everywhere. The ISS is probably one of those places for OSX. Linux has a lot of advantages in many applications.

  • Doctor Strangepork will make it work.

  • tyr

    I hope they don’t get hit by that kernel bug that crashes the server after 200 days of uptime.


    There are 52 computers on the ISS.

    It costs $10,000 to put a pound of payload into Earth orbit.

    A $1,399 13˝ MacBook Air weighs three pounds.

    It would cost almost $600,000 to replace every computer in the ISS with a MacBook Air. Presumably some of those computers would need to be more powerful than a MacBook Air.

  • Pierre Bourgeois

    I thought that there was a specific mention in the OS EULA that indicated that it could not be used for such things.

  • jacksonsquire

    To be honest I’m more surprised they were using Windows in the first place.

  • Because if they tried to Message mission control, the CPU usage would be off the charts.

  • dtj

    After 18 years of vendor lock-in…