NASA's pair of Mars Cube One satellites have broken every post in their way. The two small hitchhikers to Mars…
NASA’s pair of Mars Cube One satellites have broken every post in their way. The two small hitchhikers to Mars were the first small satellites to leave the Earth’s immediate circulation to provide updates near a mission in a mission ̵
1; and now the first to capture a fantastic retrenchment portrait of another planet.
The satellites, nicknamed MarCO, were launched alongside NASA’s InSight Mars Lander in May 2018 and trailed the larger spacecraft on its journey to the Red Planet. During the spacecraft’s dangerous landing process today (November 26), they gathered the InSights pip and sent them back to earth to the delight of a roomy worried NASA staff, confirming within minutes that the nail betting procedure had gone according to plan. You can see more amazing InSight Mars landing day photos here.
“This has been a great day for spacecraft, big and small, and our spacecraft is very small, just the size of a portfolio,” Andrew Klesh, engineer of MarCO, said during a NASA news conference held today. “MarCO was there to forward information back from InSight in real time, and we did, extremely well.” [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]
But they were not finished yet. “We have a gift we can provide the InSight community,” said Klesh, presenting a new photograph. Before the MarCO project sailed into the proverbial sunset, it achieved another achievement when MarCO-B looked back at Mars and sent another picture home.
Each MarCO satellite was equipped with a camera and the project’s photographs under the Mars approach showed a captivating – but small – planet stamp, even in a picture captured on November 24th, just two days before the airport.
The image depicted on November 26 shows that Mars is connected to the flat, rut-patterned antenna that each MarCO satellite uses to communicate with the earth. When MarCO-B snapped the image, 10 or 15 minutes after InSights, the satellite was about 4 700 kilometers from the red planet, Klesh said.
That task achieved, the MarCO duo passed Mars and continued into a stable circulation around the sun. The twin spacecraft will gradually be driven away from the ground, but the MarCO team hopes to learn more about the lifespan of such small planets in outer space – and if they can swing with an asteroid or two, they will.
But for Klesh, MarCO-Bs farewell shot of Mars is an urgent moment for his team and InSight. “This picture is truly our farewell to InSight, our wish for happiness, and our farewell to Mars as we continue to complete our primary mission.”