NASA's first mini-spacecraft in deep space goes silent

NASA's first mini-spacecraft in deep space goes silent

"This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us", said Andy Klesh, the mission's chief engineer at JPL.

The craft are known as Mars Cube One (MarCO). But it's rare for them to go adventuring so far from home.

Engineers speculate WALL-E and EVE might be wobbling and unable to point precisely to send messages, or there could be battery recharging issues.

NASA, meanwhile, is still trying to contact the Mars lander Opportunity, silenced last June by a global dust storm that prevented sunlight from reaching its solar panels.

NASA scientists were interested in testing whether CubeSats could survive deep space as a part of the InSight Mars Lander mission. Trajectory data suggests that Wall-E is more than 1 million miles past Mars with EVE being almost 2 million miles past Mars.

Called Mars Cube One or MarCO for short, the mini-satellites, each approximately the size of a briefcase and nicknamed WALL-E and EVE after characters in a Pixar film, were the first tiny satellites launched into deep space.

Both WALL-E and EVE were built at JPL.

They played a vital role during the recent landing of the InSight exploration craft on Mars, beaming back images of its descent in real time and also relaying data from the spaceship including its first picture from the Martian surface. They are in orbit around the sun and the farther they are, the more hard it would be to contact them.

Mission scientists have several theories as to why the CubeSats lost contact.

They will continue to fly away from Earth as February goes on which means receiving data even more hard.

The MarCO spacecraft were 6U cubesats launched in May 2018 as secondary payloads on the Atlas 5 that sent the InSight mission to Mars.

The InSight team will attempt to communicate with the MarCO satellites in the summer when they get closer to the Sun, according to a press release. The team will reattempt to contact the CubeSats at that time, though whether their batteries and other parts will last that long cannot be predicted.

After that, the team said if they made it that far it would already be a major success.

JPL spokesman Andrew Good said February 5 that after the flyby the MarCO cubesats continued to transmit technical data about the performance of their various subsystems, including attitude control, propulsion and communications. Several of these systems were provided by commercial vendors, making it easier for other CubeSats to use them as well. NASA is set to launch a variety of new CubeSats in coming years.

"There's big potential in these small packages", said John Baker, the MarCO program manager, on Tuesday.

More small spacecraft are on the way.

Related Articles

  • Ex-Lions captain Strauss urges Scotland to match England's physicality versus Ireland

    Ex-Lions captain Strauss urges Scotland to match England's physicality versus Ireland

    They might have to change their tactics if they end up chasing the game because we're far enough ahead. They're really smart around the field and we have to be like that, too'.
    Barca optimistic about Messi, Madrid all fit for Copa semi

    Barca optimistic about Messi, Madrid all fit for Copa semi

    Isco has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabéu as he struggles for game time under head coach Santiago Solari . The biggest star on either team started the game on the bench, as Lionel Messi was not part of Barca's starting lineup.
    Vietnam welcomes Trump-Kim summit, ready to do its part

    Vietnam welcomes Trump-Kim summit, ready to do its part

    Vietnam was South Korea's fourth-largest trading partner previous year , according to Vietnamese and South Korean media reports . It is worth noting that Trump's decision to talk directly to Kim Jong Un has marked a dramatic turn in North Korea's attitude".
  • Oil Slides on Disappointing U.S

    Oil Slides on Disappointing U.S

    Meanwhile, hopes for thawing China-US relations have also helped ease concerns over slowing economic growth. The key story supporting the market and driving the price action is the OPEC-led production cuts.
    Why Moto G7 Plus is set aside

    Why Moto G7 Plus is set aside

    All do run the Snapdragon 632, have fingerprint readers, and that clean version of Android we've come to expect from Motorola. We have four models in total to share with you today: Moto G7 , Moto G7 Plus , Moto G7 Power , and Moto G7 Play .
    Boston Fans Bask In Victory After 6th Patriots Super Bowl Win

    Boston Fans Bask In Victory After 6th Patriots Super Bowl Win

    And, similar to the way they felt about what the haters said throughout the season, the New England Patriots don't care. More than 1 million people attended the team's last Super Bowl victory parade in 2017.
  • Barba's career effectively over as Super League vow to block move

    Barba's career effectively over as Super League vow to block move

    The 2016 premiership victor had already been sacked by North Queensland over the incident which is under police investigation. Ben Barba must leave Australia to continue his career with Rugby Australia to enforce the NRL's life ban.
    Chinese Satellite Reveals Image of Moon’s Far Side and Earth Together

    Chinese Satellite Reveals Image of Moon’s Far Side and Earth Together

    The first image from this timelapse was downloaded with the Dwingeloo telescope on February 4, 2019 . The tiny satellite is capable of carrying out some complex scientific studies through space.
    White House Defends Trump 'Executive Time'

    White House Defends Trump 'Executive Time'

    Axios first reported the existence of executive time in January of a year ago . At the time, Sanders argued Trump was accomplishing much.
  • RBC lands advisory record with $66bn SunTrust-BB&T merger

    RBC lands advisory record with $66bn SunTrust-BB&T merger

    In December, BB&T said it was eliminating its Center City Allentown regional headquarters as well as positions held by Scott V. BB&T shareholders will own about 57 percent and SunTrust shareholders will own about 43 percent of the business.
    'Special place in hell': EU's Tusk slams Brexiteers

    'Special place in hell': EU's Tusk slams Brexiteers

    Tusk was speaking at a news conference in Brussels following a morning meeting with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Reaction, as they say, was swift and furious from the Brexiteers.
    Pope Says Vatican Open to Mediating in Venezuela if Both Sides Ask

    Pope Says Vatican Open to Mediating in Venezuela if Both Sides Ask

    "I anticipate having perhaps a dozen locations all around Venezuela where such aid will be staged", the official said. This weekend he plans to oversee a deliberate provocation of the military by ordering in supplies of humanitarian aid.