NASA Sending Helicopter To Mars

NASA Sending Helicopter To Mars

NASA Sending Helicopter To Mars

It's nowhere near as iconic as Voyager 1's "pale blue dot" image back in 1990, but it's still an incredible look at a tiny Earth.

Following in the footsteps of the Voyager 1 spacecraft, the twin satellites, dubbed Mars Cube One or MarCO, took their own version of a "pale blue dot" image from space, snapping a photo of both the Earth and the moon in one single shot, NASA announced yesterday.

NASA wants to see if these small satellites can relay information from the lander - a car-sized spacecraft that will study Mars' geology - back to Earth as the probe lands on the Martian surface. "Both our Cubesats are healthy and functioning properly".

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This first-ever image from the MarsCO mission was captured on May 9 by the "Wall-E" satellite, officially known as MarCO-B. The space agency also launched two CubeSats, briefcase-size mini-satellites.

"We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", said Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US. He is, of course, referring to the famous pale blue dot photo taken by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990 at the request of scientist Carl Sagan. The spacecraft to Mars is titled Mars InSight lander, and it was launched from California last Sunday that is on the 6th of this month.

Developers are already designing and building CubeSats for future deep space missions, and results from MarCO will help ensure engineers their concepts will work far away from Earth. But MarCO's success lies in another first for a CubeSat. MarCO's job is to act as a kind of chaperone to InSight Lander as it approaches Mars.

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The snapped photo features the antenna, the moon, and the Earth.

The MarCO CubeSats will sail by Mars at a distance of around 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers), orienting their UHF antennas toward InSight and pointing their X-band high-gain reflectors to Earth. The satellite pair will grab as much data about InSight as it can and beam it to the Deep Space Network antenna in Madrid, Spain at a blistering 8 kilobits per second. Eight thrusters give the team options for each correction. The mission is scheduled to take off on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and reach Mars in February 2021. They're also testing a few specific technologies, including a propulsion system that uses the same cold, compressed gas commonly found in fire extinguishers.

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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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the prospect of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet as "thrilling", while Zurbuchen compared the mission to the Wright brothers pioneering flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

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