NASA CubeSats Heading Towards Mars

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The CubeSats are heading towards Mars, successfully finishing the trajectory correction maneuver. They’re now on the right path towards the Red Planet. The InSight spacecraft has also completed the process on 22 May.

Launched on 5 May, NASA’s CubeSats went on a long journey with the InSight lander in a mission to gather data from Mars. The CubeSats will remain up in space and receive data from the InSight lander, which will land on 26 November on Mars. The tiny robots make up the Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission. Their primary goal is to test if CubeSats can be used to communicate and to navigate. If it works, future CubeSats will be sent to other planets.

Low-Cost Technology Can Be Used in Space

Both CubeSats completed communication tests in the last weeks, according to John Baker, who is the program manager for planetary SmallSats at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California).

The leader of the mission and the ones that built the MarCO CubeSats is the JPL. Baker explains the final goal of their small robots:

“Our broadest goal was to demonstrate how low-cost CubeSat technology can be used in deep space for the first time. With both MarCOs on their way to Mars, we’ve already traveled farther than any CubeSat before them.”

There have been some challenges on the journey, with one of the CubeSats leaking from a thruster valve. MarCO-B’s trajectory correction maneuver was a bit more difficult, but the engineers have monitored it and made sure that it still follows InSight on its journey towards Mars.

The project manager of the MarCo mission, Joel Krajewski (JPL), explains:

“We’re cautiously optimistic that MarCO-B can follow MarCO-A. But we wanted to take more time to understand the underlying issues before attempting the next course-correction maneuver.”

After the MarCO team analyze the data, they will know how to maneuver the CubeSats to successfully reach Mars. If they reach the planet, they will relay data to Earth about how InSight has landed. NASA has the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that will also send the data, so the teams don’t rely on the CubeSats for the relay of data.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere