The twin Mars Cube One spacecraft will cruise through space towards Mars, along with NASA’s InSight mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA scientists rejoice, as the first-ever CubeSats launched into the depths of space are alive and responding. At 12:15 p.m. PST (7:15 p.m. GMT) on 5 May 2018, the first signal was received and then another one followed at 1:58 p.m. PST (8:58 p.m. GMT). This is an excellent sign as engineers can now undergo a series of checks as the two CubeSats enter their cosmic cruise.
Mars Cube One, also known as MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized satellites that were launched along with NASA’s InSight mission on the 5 May 2018. InSight, launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, United States, will be the first Martian probe focussed on understanding the interior of the Red Planet based on its thermal and seismic activity.
The twin MarCO CubeSats is doing something different to InSight, however. Rather than collecting the data about Mars, which is what InSight will be doing, the CubeSats will follow InSight lander and test out miniature spacecraft technologies along the way.
After their launch, both CubeSats were programmed to unfold their solar panels and ...