The "Wall-E" CubeSat took a "pale blue dot image" of Earth and the moon from more than 600 thousand miles away.
Almost 30 years after Voyager 1 sent back to Earth a photo of humanity's home planet, taken from several billion miles away, the two CubeSats, nicknamed by NASA engineers Wall-E and Eva, did the same, but from a distance of only 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers).
MarCO will send data back to NASA about InSight Lander's condition as it enters the planet's atmosphere and explores Mars. 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. If successful, the two testbeds could lay the foundation for miniature spacecraft traveling to the moon, asteroids, comets and the planets, accomplishing focused scientific objectives at significantly lower cost than conventional space probes. Now, MarCO-B, one of the tiny CubeSats, has sent back home a magnificent image showing the Earth and the Moon, a so-called Earth-Moon duo.
As a bonus, it captured Earth and its moon as tiny specks floating in space, the U.S. space agency added.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which manages both InSight and MarCO for NASA, built the two MarCO spacecraft in JPL's CubeSat assembly clean room.
NASA has just shared a new version of the famous "pale blue dot" image originally snapped on February 14, 1990 by the agency's Voyager 1 spacecraft from its perch at that time beyond Neptune. But that changed on May 5, when the InSight mission launched.
Developers are already designing and building CubeSats for future deep space missions, and results from MarCO will help ensure engineers their concepts will work far away from Earth. "We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", Klesh added.
As for MarCO-A and MarCO-B, they represent a premiere in the CubeSat's world.
If all goes according to plan, MarCO-A and -B will fly by Mars on November 26, the same day that InSight arrives at the Red Planet for its crucial entry, descent and landing (EDL) sequence.
The snapped photo features the antenna, the moon, and the Earth. Its launch broke the record for the farthest such satellite in space after crossing 621,371 miles from Earth on May 8. What MarCO will be doing is acting as a technological demonstration. Later this month, the pair of tiny satellites will attempt the first trajectory correction maneuvers ever done by a CubeSat. The Iris radio is created to interface with NASA's Deep Space Network, a collection of antennas at three sites in California, Spain and Australia that connect with spacecraft traveling throughout the solar system.
Engineers who worked on the MarCO mission nicknamed the CubeSats "Wall-E" and "Eva", based on characters from the 2008 Pixar film.
InSight won't rely on the MarCO mission for data relay. After the rocket took off and reached into the outer space, the twin satellites got detached from the rocket in the upper stage of it.