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NASA shares CubeSat version of 'pale blue dot' image

18 May 2018, 04:16 | Justin Tyler

Image NASA JPL-Caltech

Image NASA  JPL-Caltech

The photo, captured by MarCO-B, also dubbed Wall-E CubeSat, reveals the Earth as a dim blue speck and the Moon, slightly far from our planet, as an even dimmer spot. More importantly, their launch broke the record for being the satellite that crossed the furthest distance after it passed 621,371 miles away from Earth on May 8.

"Consider it our homage to Voyager", Andy Klesh, Mars Cube One's chief engineer said in a statement.

This picture, showing Earth as a bluish speck and the moon as a faint blip, was captured by one of the two MarCO CubeSats that were launched toward Mars on May 5 as piggyback payloads for NASA's Mars InSight mission.

"Cubesats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone", Klesh added. 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. Namely, they are the first of their kind to travel in deep space. One of the antennas on each CubeSat, operating in X-band, is created to beam signals back to Earth from distances as far away as Mars without needing much power, an essential capability for such small spacecraft.

On May 5, NASA launched two, tiny, briefcase-sized satellites (called cubesats) to Mars, but at least one of them still has an eye for Earth.

InSight will touch down on Mars this November and study the planet's deep interior for the first time.

The twin CubeSats are tasked with sending back radio data on the InSight's descent and landing on the Martian surface, as well as with demonstrating their cold-gas propulsion system. Voyager 1 is now 13 billion miles away from Earth, travelling northward through space. They're intended purely as a technology demonstration, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory notes. The satellite got the signal, took a photo, and sent it back to Earth.

NASA sent two 30-pound (13.5-kilogram) CubeSats for redundancy in case one of the MarCO probes runs into trouble.

Later this month, the MarCOs will attempt the first trajectory correction manoeuvres ever performed by CubeSats.

But they do not carry the typical propellants used by satellites.

The cameras of Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990, pointed back toward the Sun and took a series of pictures of the Sun and the planets, making the first ever "portrait" of our solar system as seen from the outside. In the movie, the sentient Wall-E robot uses a fire extinguisher to propel through space. "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars".

"Exploring the Red Planet with NASA's Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future", said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington via an agency-issued release.

If the tech fails, the mission will not be affected and all NASA will potentially lose is the money spent developing the helicopter.

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