Mar 08, 2019 09:28 AM EST
The first ever pair of tiny satellites sent to go interplanetary have fallen silent after their launch. For some unknown reason, it might be possible that NASA or the world won't hear anything from them again. The loss in communication with these two tiny satellites still doesn't fall under the category of failure.
Before the apparent silence of the pair, the astronomic vehicles demonstrated the possibility of tiny satellites to become critical use in the study of space. They could be the very tool that will help the world realize what is out there existing within our Solar System.
Namely EVE and WALL-E, the two MarCO probes flew to Mars alongside NASA's InSight lander in 2018. Both are modified CubeSats, a kind of small satellite that comes in the size of a regular cereal box. They are mainly used to conduct space research. Before the actual InSight mission, most CubeSats only orbit the Earth.
The launch last year was to help NASA push further the discovery of what's in space. They wanted to know if CubeSats can also be utilized for deep-space missions too. The MarCO satellites showed that they could do more than what is expected of them, exceeding what everyone else thought.
The InSight was launched on May 5, 2018, and it flew with a larger spacecraft to the Red Planet. It got to Mars and started its descent on its surface on November 26 of the same year. The MarCO satellites spent reports on Earth concerning the landing sequence from overhead. The reports were sent real-time on Earth. In that way, NASA learned about how the landing process is done just minutes after it actually happened in space.
"We got the data much earlier than we would have expected," Joel Krajewski, the project head of MarCO at the NASA Jet Laboratory, reveals in The Verge.
The quick transfer of information has benefited NASA and they wouldn't have done it without the help of MarCO. The other larger vehicles orbiting Mars are also recording what these small vehicles are doing. Because of their locations in space and their positions against the planets, it took a while before the vehicles were sent back to Earth.
While the launch of the MarCO can be considered a huge success, they were not designed to last beyond the InSight landing area. It was experimental since day one and much of its survival was simply dependent on its landing on Mars.
Ultimately, the MarCO project proves that there is no idea too impossible to recreate. "It is in these small spacecraft that the world knows more about the space than it ever did. It did not only relay communications, but it has pushed scientific interests further into space," says Klesh.
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