EVE and Wall-E are the only CubeSats that have ever traveled to Mars. On 22 October, NASA has posted the first image of the Red Planet from the MarCO mission which is going to get to Mars in November. The photograph is not that dramatic, but that’s not what the two CubeSats were made for.
The two CubeSats nicknamed EVE and Wall-E (MarCO-A and MarCO-B) were launched on May 5 with NASA’s InSight lander. Both CubeSats will be tested and radio back to Earth all data about InSight as the lander enters Mars’ atmosphere and reaches the surface.
According to NASA’s statement, the photo was taken by MarCO-B:
“A wide-angle camera on top of MarCO-B produced the image as a test of exposure settings,” adding that the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California) hopes to get more images as the CubeSats approach the Red Planer on 26 November:
“That’s when they’ll demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA’s InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet.”
The InSight mission doesn’t rely on Wall-E and EVE, as they were sent there for tests, but they will remain in Mars’ orbit and send data back to Earth.
A Big Win For the MarCo Team
NASA stated that the image was taken from 8 million miles from Mars (12.8 million km), chasing the planet as it orbits the sun:
“In order to be in place for InSight’s landing, the CubeSats have to travel roughly 53 million miles (85 million km). They have already traveled 248 million miles (399 million km).”
According to the MarCO mission manager at JPL, Cody Colley, the two CubeSats have been traveling for six months and that the “cruise phase of the mission is always difficult, so you take all the small wins when they come. Finally seeing the planet is definitely a big win for the team.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.