Twin Satellites, bound for Mars, phone home

Two small satellites which had started their journey towards Mars have just phoned home for the first time during their expedition. The two satellites are officially known as MarCO-A and MarCo-B. They started off their journey on early Saturday morning (May 5). They were launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base partnering with NASA’s InSight Mars Lander. They are believed to be the first CubeSats which are launched to another planet.

For the first time during their voyage, the CubeSats which are the size of a briefcase have sent radio signals. Such signal was received on Saturday afternoon as per the reports of the NASA officials. According to Andy Klesh, who is the chief mission in charge of NASA’s Jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena California, has said that such signals sent from the CubeSats prove that these tiny satellites in the space and are not lost.

The scientists believe that if everything goes according to the plan, then both the satellites will pass by Mars on Nov 26. It is the same day when NASA’s InSight Lander is supposed to touch down on Mars. As per the plan, the CubeSats will try to extract maximum data possible during the time of landing of the InSight on the surface of the Red Planet. The CubeSats will then all such data to the earth which will be analyzed by the scientists for further processing.

The main aim of the MarCo mission which is worth of $ 18.5 million, is to prove that the CubeSats which were till date restricted to orbit around the Earth only are also capable of exploring interplanetary space. Marco-A, as well as Marco-B, are displaying some CubeSat technology during their 7-month journey to Mars. It will also involve a folding high-gain antenna as well as a cold-gas propulsion system.

The cold gas is compressed R236FA which is a standard compound of fire extinguishers. MarCo project manager has mixed feelings in the way that they are both worried and at the same time quite excited about the success of the mission. He further added that a lot of effort has gone into the designing into the CubeSats which will be able to extract the maximum data possible from the InSight Lander. However, the broader vision of the scientists involves that they will learn how to develop the CubeSat technologies for better in-depth space exploration further.