Nasa satellite takes stunning image of Earth from 600000 miles away

Tiny NASA satellite bound for Mars snaps photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

MarCO-B, along with MarCO-A, which are tiny satellites on their way to Mars, made history by becoming the first CubeSats launched to another planet.

A cubesat is a miniature satellite that has been sent into space. Each MarCO will maintain an orientation with the UHF antenna pointed down toward InSight as it lands on Mars, and the high-gain X-band antenna pointed back toward Earth. Although many know that it lifted off successfully, they didn't know that the spacecraft wasn't alone on its journey but that it was joined by two tiny CubeSats of which one has returned a magnificent photograph of an Earth-Moon duo. Since they're cubesats, each one fits inside a standard frame measuring 14.4 x 9.5 x 4.6-inches (36.6 x 24.3 x 11.8 centimeters). MarCO-B - nicknamed Wall-E by spacecraft engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - acquired this image on May 9, 2018. Interestingly, the Earth appears as a mere pale blue dot in the image.

Last week, the MarCO-B spacecraft (also known as Wall-E) snapped a picture with its wide-field color camera to check the deployment of its high-gain antenna.

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Capturing the Earth and the moon was a fortunate coincidence, as the image was only meant to test whether the craft's antennae had deployed correctly.

"Exploring the Red Planet with NASA's Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. The primary aim of the twin MarCO spacecraft is to show that the cubesats can explore the faraway destination in space.

The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with NASA's Mars 2020 rover, now scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. One of them sent back a charmingly dainty view of our home planet. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be communicating with InSight as well in case MarCO doesn't work out.

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"But the MarCOs could be a pathfinder so that future missions can "bring their own relay" to Mars".

The CubeSats have been initially engineered for testing and research but are now a crucial element of all important commercial missions, according to a press release issued by NASA.

If the next six months go according to plan, MarCO-A and MarCO-B will be flying past Mars on November 26 just as the InSight lander enters Mars' atmosphere. Upon landing, the rover will conduct geological assessments, determine the habitability of the environment, and search for signs of ancient Martian life, along with other tasks.

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