NASA to make aviation history with UAV mission on Mars

Tiny NASA satellite bound for Mars snaps photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

NASA satellite snaps adorable Earth portrait on way to Mars

You can see the antenna in the image at the top of this post - as well as a bonus: Earth, once again seen as a pale blue dot, and the Moon, seen as an even tinier speck. The older probe took its iconic image from a distance of about 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers), whereas the two cubesats were about 620,000 miles (1 million km) from Earth on May 8, the day before MarCO-B snapped the newly released image, NASA officials said.

"Consider it our homage to Voyager", Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement, which also shows the CubeSat photograph of the Earth-Moon duo.

The image was taken by one of the CubeSats, known as MarCO-B or Wall-E CubeSat. "Both are CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly". Namely, they are the first of their kind to travel in deep space.

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

Just like the "marscopter" that the space agency is planning to launch on the upcoming Mars 2020 mission, the MarCO satellites represent a demonstration technology aimed to test CubeSat capabilities on an alien planet, as well as their resistance to the extreme radiation of deep space.

Tiny NASA satellite bound for Mars snaps photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

"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", added associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will attempt to land on Mars on November 26. But that changed on May 5, when the InSight mission launched. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be communicating with InSight as well in case MarCO doesn't work out. Since they're cubesats, each one fits inside a standard frame measuring 14.4 x 9.5 x 4.6-inches (36.6 x 24.3 x 11.8 centimeters). The picture courtesy for the 1990 image goes to the NASA's voyager one probe.

NASA/JPL-CaltechA NASA engineer tests a Mars Cube One (MarCO) satellite before launch. Then Wall-E turned back and grabbed the first-ever CubeSat pale blue dot image: an image of the Earth and moon.

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. Eight thrusters give the team options for each correction. InSight's observations should help researchers better understand how rocky planets form and evolve, NASA officials have said.

The CubeSats have been initially engineered for testing and research but are now a crucial element of all important commercial missions, according to a press release issued by NASA.

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