While the two Mars Cube One satellites have launched towards Mars as a test project for advanced communication systems in deep space, the fact that they went "dark" is puzzling the U.S. space agency's scientists.
MarCO, also known as the Mars Cube One, have fallen silent, according to NASA, and mission engineers are not expecting to hear from it again. "Future CubeSats might go even farther", Klesh said. WALL-E and EVE's success are proof that small satellites are up to the challenge. As InSight landed on Mars, the MarCO cubesats flew by the planet, serving as communications relays to allow controllers to get real-time telemetry from InSight as it landed.
NASA scientists were interested in testing whether CubeSats could survive deep space as a part of the InSight Mars Lander mission.
WALL-E, which last communicated with Earth on December 29, is slightly more than one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) beyond the Red Planet while EVE, which last contacted Earth on January 4, is close to two million miles (3.2 million kilometers) past Mars.
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The MarCO CubeSats were launched past year to test if such low-priced technology can operate in deep space.
The success of the MarCO mini satellites - named WALL-E and EVE in honor of the futuristic Pixar flick (which isn't as good as A Bug's Life) - was a long shot for NASA from the start. If the brightness sensors that keep them pointing at the Sun have malfunctioned, the batteries may be unable to recharge.
Nasa has several theories about why it has lost contact with the pair - none of which involve the interference of aliens.
"At this time, the mission team considers it unlikely they'll be heard from again".
Both of the machines will begin heading back towards the Sun in a few months, at which point NASA will once again attempt to wake them up, but whether they'll be up for a chat is anyone's guess.
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The MarCO spacecraft were 6U cubesats launched in May 2018 as secondary payloads on the Atlas 5 that sent the InSight mission to Mars. It's unknown if the batteries or any other components will last that long, however.
Even if they are never revived, the MarCO mission was a spectacular success, NASA said.
JPL spokesman Andrew Good said February 5 that after the flyby the MarCO cubesats continued to transmit technical data about the performance of their various subsystems, including attitude control, propulsion and communications.
More small spacecraft are on the way.
NASA now hope to use the technology for further projects with John Baker, MarCO programme manager concluding that there is "big potential" in the small packages.
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