See that tiny blue speck floating in an infinite void? The two briefcase-sized CubeSats, known collectively as Mars Cube One, or MarCO, will serve as a communications relay system when InSight attempts to land on the Red Planet, transmitting status information back to Earth.
"Consider it our homage to Voyager", Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement, which also shows the CubeSat photograph of the Earth-Moon duo. 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. "We're looking forward to seeing them travel even further". They are the first CubeSats ever sent into deep space as in the past, they've only been limited to orbit.
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. MarCO's job is to act as a kind of chaperone to InSight Lander as it approaches Mars.
For the first time in history, a space program plans to fly a helicopter on the surface of another planet: NASA has announced that it will be sending an autonomous rotocraft to Mars by the summer of 2020 as a new way to explore the planet's surface and to test the new technology.
Known as MarCO for short, the CubeSats accompanied NASA's InSight spacecraft during its launch May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The MarCO CubeSats will follow along behind InSight during its cruise to Mars. Since they're cubesats, each one fits inside a standard frame measuring 14.4 x 9.5 x 4.6-inches (36.6 x 24.3 x 11.8 centimeters). NASA pinged MarCO-B on May 9 (just a few days after launch) in order to make sure its high-gain antenna deployed correctly.
Tiny satellites named Wall-E and Eva are about to take a trip to Mars.
In 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft was cruising outward in the solar system, heading toward interstellar space. The better news is that Earth and the moon showed up in the frame as well.
The compressed gas supply will feed eight tiny thrusters on each CubeSat.
The Atlas 5 rocket intentionally targeted a trajectory slightly offset from Mars during the May 5 launch to ensure the vehicle's Centaur upper stage would not impact the Red Planet.
If the tech fails, the mission will not be affected and all NASA will potentially lose is the money spent developing the helicopter.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the prospect of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet as "thrilling", while Zurbuchen compared the mission to the Wright brothers pioneering flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
The space agency has funded studies of 19 interplanetary mission concepts using CubeSats and other types of "SmallSats" to help teams advance their work.