NASA's CubeSat Captures Earth-Moon Duo

Nasa's Mars Helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft will travel with the Mars 2020 rover mission currently scheduled to launch in July 2020 it will demonstrate the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet

Tiny NASA satellite bound for Mars snaps photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

The photo, captured by MarCO-B, also dubbed Wall-E CubeSat, reveals the Earth as a dim blue speck and the Moon, slightly far from our planet, as an even dimmer spot.

The adventurous twin spacecraft set a new record for CubeSats on May 8 when they hit a distance of 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth.

MarCO-A and MarCO-B, which were built at JPL, are conducting a demonstration mission - basically, their handlers aim to show that cubesats can indeed help explore distant destinations.

"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".

The first image captured by one of NASA's Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats.

NASA's InSight Mars mission launched on May 5, but it wasn't the only piece of equipment that began its journey to the red planet.

The tiny satellites will follow the InSight Lander to Mars, as Nasa wants to see if the small satellites can relay information back to Earth. Since MarCO adds formatting information, as well as a small amount of spacecraft information, to the datastream, the delay is expected to increase as more data are sent from InSight.

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 success of InSight's landing on Mars will not depend on the MarCO CubeSats.

Nasa intends to study Mars form the sky with the help of a miniature helicopter. The US space agency intends to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020. It is hoped that a miniature unmanned drone-like chopper could boost our understanding of

The MarCO CubeSats will sail by Mars at a distance of around 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers), orienting their UHF antennas toward InSight and pointing their X-band high-gain reflectors to Earth.

Engineer Joel Steinkraus uses sunlight to test the solar arrays on one of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Later this month, the MarCOs will attempt the first trajectory correction manoeuvres ever performed by CubeSats. The satellite got the signal, took a photo, and sent it back to Earth.

But they do not carry the typical propellants used by satellites.

NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said, "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars".

The compressed gas supply will feed eight tiny thrusters on each CubeSat. The mission is scheduled to take off on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and reach Mars in February 2021.

"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 via an agency-issued release.

The CubeSats have been initially engineered for testing and research but are now a crucial element of all important commercial missions, according to a press release issued by NASA.

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