Although Britain's own Beagle 2 mission to Mars failed, the UK managed to support the more-successful US effort.

The Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity are equipped with BAE Systems RAD6000 radiation-hardened high-performance 32-bit reduced instruction set computers (RISC) built by BAE Systems' IEWS (Information and Electronic Warfare Systems) facility in Manassas, Virginia.

The RAD6000 is based on IBM's Power PC architecture, and was used for the processing of key navigational data during each spacecraft's six-month journey. The RAD6000 requires significant hardening to operate in the heavily radiated space environment, and in the extremes of temperature (as low as -100¡C) on the Martian surface.

Vic Scuderi, manager, space products, BAE Systems IEWS, says: "We are proud to be part of the successful NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Rover programme. This has been a tremendous team effort and we are honoured that JPL selected the RAD6000 as their single spacecraft computer on the Rovers."

Source: Flight Daily News