MYSTERY as NASA's 'WALL-E' and 'EVE' Go Silent After Passing Mars

Pixaaaarrrrrrghh! Mars-snapping CubeSats Wall-E and Eve declared dead (for now) by NASA bods

Before the pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft known collectively as MarCO launched previous year, their success was measured by survival: If they were able to operate in deep space at all, they would be pushing the limits of experimental technology.

They were the great experiment accompanying the InSight mission, and their success was measured by survival, according to NASA.

NASA, meanwhile, is still trying to contact the Mars lander Opportunity, silenced last June by a global dust storm that prevented sunlight from reaching its solar panels. Despite losing contact with the two spacecraft, NASA still considers the mission a complete success as they could still talk to them despite being so deep in space. Mission scientists will then attempt to regain contact with them, but even if that fails, the MarCO mission is viewed as a success and a milestone in the use of this new, still-experimental technology.

The US space agency launched Cubesats MarCO-A and B - nicknamed WALL-E and EVE - in May.

"This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturised technology and seeing just how far it could take us", said Andy Klesh, the mission's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which built the CubeSats. "They were an excellent test of how CubeSats can serve as "tag-alongs" on future missions, giving engineers up-to-the-minute feedback during a landing".

According to a blog post published on Tuesday, Feb. 5, WALL-E and EVE (named after Pixar's Oscar-winning 2008 animated movie) are more than 1 million and nearly 2 million miles past Mars respectively. WALL-E has a leaky thruster.

"We've put a stake in the ground", Klesh said in the JPL statement.

There's a slim chance that when WALL-E and EVE's orbits bring them closer to the sun, they'll power back on and send a bit more information. Another possible issue would be some sort of failure with the brightness sensors that allow the spacecraft to point towards the sun to recharge.

However, Nasa admitted it's "anyone's guess whether their batteries and other parts will last that long".

Radio antennas: Like Earth, Mars wobbles a little as it rotates around its axis.

The systems used for the MarCOs are produced by commercial companies and are likely compatible with various other types of CubeSats.

Each weighing only 13.5kg and measuring about the size of a briefcase, the small spacecraft are much cheaper to manufacture and send to space than fully fledged probes. "Future CubeSats might go even farther". NASA is set to launch a variety of new CubeSats in coming years.

"There's big potential in these small packages", said John Baker, the MarCO program manager at JPL, in the statement. The satellites have not communicated with the government space agency for more than a month, NASA said on Tuesday.



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