NASA Plans to Fly Helicopter on Mars

The ‘pale blue dot is back

The older probe took its iconic image from a distance of about 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers), whereas the two cubesats were about 620,000 miles (1 million km) from Earth on May 8, the day before MarCO-B snapped the newly released image, NASA officials said.

"Consider it our homage to Voyager", said Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which built the CubeSats and manages their trailblazing mission on the Red Planet.

This picture, showing Earth as a bluish speck and the moon as a faint blip, was captured by one of the two MarCO CubeSats that were launched toward Mars on May 5 as piggyback payloads for NASA's Mars InSight mission. 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly.

The MarCO satellites are traveling separately from InSight, even though they launched aboard the same rocket. NASA also tossed two tiny CubeSats into deep space along with InSight.

Each MarCO will maintain an orientation with the UHF antenna pointed down toward InSight as it lands on Mars, and the high-gain X-band antenna pointed back toward Earth.

The InSight lander is expected to reach Mars this November. If the mission goes as planned, they'll help send back information about InSight's descent and landing on Mars.

For InSight, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will handle day-to-day data relay duties.

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.

Nasa chose to release the image taken by the miniature satellites in homage to one of the space exploration programmes most famous predecessors, the Voyager mission. The better news is that Earth and the moon showed up in the frame as well.

Later this month, NASA said, the MarCOs will attempt the first trajectory correction maneuvers ever performed by CubeSats.

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

MarCO's final destination is Mars, but the tiny satellite pair won't be collecting any science. But none of these tiny craft had ever ventured into deep space until the twin MarCO spacecraft did.

Thirteen CubeSats will fly on the first launch of NASA's Space Launch System in 2020, each with standalone missions to study the moon, travel to an asteroid, and conduct other types of research and demonstrations in deep space.

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.

"After Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world", added Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.



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