A couple of tiny, man-made ‘robots’, who go by the names WALL-E and EVE, have just made history and taken some mad #throwbackthursday photos to prove it.
While space exploration is still a relatively expensive endeavour, it has been made exponentially more affordable by the development of CubeSats.
According to the CubeSat Design Specification document, one of these satellites is “a 10 cm cube with a mass of up to 1.33 kg”, designed “to provide access to space for small payloads”.
And while they were originally only meant to be used as a teaching aide for uni students when they were first developed in 1999, NASA says they “are now a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes”.
CubeSats tend to stick to Earth’s orbit – that is, until this month.
On May 8, a couple of NASA CubeSats made history by passing the 1 million kilometre mark in their long journey to Mars.
Officially MarCO-A and MarCO-B – but better known as EVE and WALL-E to the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) – the momentous occasion was marked by taking a photo of Earth and the Moon.
Specifically, WALL-E (MarCO-B) recreated the iconic photo NASA’s Voyager 1 took in 1990 – although Voyager was a few billion miles away when firing off its snap.
Hello from afar. Our Pale Blue Dot and its moon as photographed by a tiny spacecraft. Learn more about MarCO-A and MarCO-B, the first CubeSats ever sent to deep space. Link in bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2Krm8yZ #cubesat #marco #nasainsight #interplanetary #NASA #JPL #NASAJPL #spacecraft #satellites #planet #space
“Consider it our homage to Voyager,” MarCO chief engineer Andy Klesh, of JPL, said in a statement.
“CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it’s a big milestone. Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We’re looking forward to seeing them travel even farther.”
WALL-E and EVE are part of the InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission, wherein a spacecraft will aim to land on the Red Planet and “study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface”.
Today’s @NASAInSight launch was 🔥 The spacecraft embarked on a 300-million-mile trip to #Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. Click the link in our bio for more: https://go.nasa.gov/2HT1JSu Here, the spacecraft launches onboard a United Launch Alliance #AtlasV rocket, Saturday, May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #insight #space #science #nasa #jpl #launch #rocket
Our Disney-inspired pair will follow InSight all the way to Mars and hopefully relay data from InSight. However, their role is more experimental – it’s on the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to do the actual data relay, while WALL-E and EVE are there more to see if CubeSats could be effective in deep space and planetary exploration in the future.
“MarCO-A and B are our first and second interplanetary CubeSats designed to monitor InSight for a short period around landing, if the MarCO pair makes it to Mars,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division.
“However, these CubeSat missions are not needed for InSight’s mission success. They are a demonstration of potential future capability.
“The MarCO pair will carry their own communications and navigation experiments as they fly independently to the Red Planet.”