Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Meet NASA's robot helicopter of Mars

Meet NASA's robot helicopter of Mars

NASA's first mini-satellites to travel into deep space have beamed back an image of the Earth and the Moon, which appear as a "pale blue dot" and a tiny white speck floating in space.

One of the backpack-size "CubeSat" spacecraft recently took a photo 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers) away from home.

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.

One of the CubeSats, called Marco-b and affectionately known as "Wall-E", used a wide angle "fisheye" lens to snap the photo on May 9. "Both are CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", he added.

CubeSats are spacecrafts made from small components that are typically used for research purposes and tend to stay in low-Earth orbit.

NASA said the MarCO spacecraft are the first CubeSats ever launched into deep space.

The cubesats are following NASA's InSight lander to the red planet.

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MarCO-A and MarCO-B also deployed a UHF radio antenna, which will receive telemetry from the InSight spacecraft as it descends through the Martian atmosphere November 26.

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. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004.Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

Giant radio telescopes on Earth will also listen for signals radioed directly from InSight in near real-time - accounting for a time delay due to the vast distance to Mars - but the ground-based antennas are expected to only verify the lander's "aliveness" during descent and touchdown.

Tiny satellites named Wall-E and Eva are about to take a trip to Mars.

MarCO's final destination is Mars, but the tiny satellite pair won't be collecting any science. Eight thrusters give the team options for each correction.

The Voyager crafts have set numerous records since they were launched in 1977, including Voyager 1 becoming the only spacecraft to have entered interstellar space.

MarCO's potential success could also open the door for other ways to explore our solar system according to NASA. InSight and the twin MarCO CubeSats will bend their trajectories back toward Mars with a series of maneuvers over the coming months. The lander - whose name is short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport" - will perform three different experiments to investigate Mars' internal structure and composition over its roughly two-Earth-year prime mission.

Merkel Says Germany Remains Committed To Iran Nuclear Accord
The chancellor also said Germany will remain committed to the Iran Nuclear Deal despite the US withdrawal. "Participation in alliances and European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership are essential for Germany's own security".

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