NASA sending a tiny robot helicopter to Mars

Mindy Sparks
May 16, 2018

The world first would see the U.S. space agency launch the drone-like craft to Mars in 2020, reaching the red planet in early 2021.

While the small CubeSats, MarCO-A and MarCO-B are not going to be the principal communications link with the InSight mission, NASA is confident that their capabilities can prove a useful array of technologies that might permit future deep space missions to conduct their individual data communications.

"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone".

This annotated view of Earth and the moon as seen by the Wall-E Mars Cube One cubesat identifies parts of the spacecraft visible in the image taken May 9, 2018.

In five decades of exploring Mars, NASA has sent orbiters, landers and rovers to explore Earth's neighbor.

The first image captured by one of NASA's Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats. Earlier this week, they also proved the concept of small robotic satellites might be a game changer. 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. They are now traveling towards Mars in support of NASA's InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) robotic lander, which will attempt to touch down on the Red Planet on November 26.

The pioneering "Wall-E" and "Eva" CubeSats that left Earth's orbit on May 5 together with the InSight Mars lander have beamed back their first snapshot of our planet as seen from one million kilometers away.

"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.

The MarCo satellites and the InSight Mars lander are expected to reach the Red Planet on November 26.

MarCO-B is a CubeSat-a class of small, cube-shaped spacecraft that were originally created to teach university students about satellites.


Nasa defines them as a class of nanosatellites that use a standard size and form factor.

These can include 1.5, 2, 3, 6, and even 12U objects.

Cubesats have a variety of functions. They are now a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from environmental changes to shipping routes.

Nasa chose to release the image taken by the minuscule satellites in homage to one of the space exploration programmes most famous predecessors, the Voyager missions.

In the picture, which was taken from a record distance of about 3.7 billion miles, Earth appears to be smaller than a single pixel-a "pale blue dot" set against the vastness of space, as Sagan described it in a speech at Cornell University.

Nasa launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft on September 5 1977, and the Voyager 2 on August 20 1977.

'The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers, ' said Nasa's Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science mission directorate.

Despite being more than 40 years old, the Voyagers are still transmitting sporadically, but Nasa expects it will go silent by 2030.

It's sibling, Voyager 2, is now 11 billion miles from Earth, travelling south towards the interstellar region.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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