NASA's CubeSat Captures Earth-Moon Duo

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 16, 2018

The Mars Helicopter, an unmanned rotorcraft, will travel with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, now scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

Almost 30 years after Voyager 1 sent back to Earth a photo of humanity's home planet, taken from several billion miles away, the two CubeSats, nicknamed by NASA engineers Wall-E and Eva, did the same, but from a distance of only 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers).

"Consider it our homage to Voyager", said Andy Klesh, NASA chief engineer in charge with the project.

Last week, the MarCO-B spacecraft (also known as Wall-E) snapped a picture with its wide-field color camera to check the deployment of its high-gain antenna.

"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone". "Both our Cubesats are healthy and functioning properly. We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", he added. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the twin CubeSats radioed NASA shortly after their May 5 launch, confirming that they're doing well and that they managed to unfold their solar panels.

Despite the "pale blue dot" photos' similarity, the two cubesats, known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, are nowhere near as far afield as Voyager 1 was back in 1990.

The photo released by NASA on Tuesday shows both the Earth and the Moon in one rather blurry shot. The briefcase-sized satellites are accompanying NASA's InSight mission in order to prove that CubeSat technology can be successfully used in interplanetary missions.

MarCO-B is a CubeSat-a class of small, cube-shaped spacecraft that were originally created to teach university students about satellites.

The InSight lander is expected to reach Mars this November.

"Exploring the Red Planet with NASA's Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington.

According to a recent announcement by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the space agency's 2020 mission will involve an effort to fly a small electric helicopter on Mars.

Until then, however, the trailblazing CubeSats have a long way to go.

NASA shared the image on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the main mission for the two satellites is to follow the InSight Mars mission to the Red Planet and in that way, demonstrate the suitability of small spacecraft traveling toward deep space.

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