NASA’s Tiny, Mars-Bound Satellites Have Successfully Signaled Home

Artist’s conception of Mars Cube One (MarCO)
Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight lander is on its way to Mars following Saturday’s successful launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the lander is not alone—it has a pair of twin communication CubeSats in tow. Called MarCO-A and MarCO-B, the tiny machines have already passed the first important milestone in their groundbreaking mission to the Red Planet.

When MarCO-A and MarCO-B arrive at Mars later this year, they’ll be the smallest machines to ever visit another planet. Known as nanosatellites, these devices weigh a mere 30 pounds each, and measure just 14.4 inches by 9.5 inches by 4.6 inches when packed into a rocket’s cargo hold. Once at Mars, the tiny satellites will provide a communications link with stations on Earth as InSight makes its perilous entry to the surface. But NASA’s lander is not dependant on Mars Cube One (MarCO) for its success; the CubeSats are involved in a proof-of-concept mission to test the viability of sending small satellites to the outer reaches of the Solar System.

Be the first to comment