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 USA space agency's scientists. Even if NASA never hears from EVE or Wall-E again, they consider the MarCO mission a success. But it's rare for them to go adventuring so far from home.
WALL-E has a leaky thruster, and attitude-control issues could be causing them to wobble and lose the ability to send and receive commands. They're created to fly along behind NASA's InSight lander on its cruise to Mars.
In any case, the NASA team considers MarCO a "spectacular success" since they have shown that such small (the size of a briefcase) and relatively cheap (around $18.5 million per mission) satellites can operate in deep space.More news: Vet jailed for implanting heroin into pups
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.
NASA says it has lost contact with two tiny satellites that launched on a technology-proving mission to Mars previous year. Nicknamed "EVE" and "WALL-E" it is thought the spacecraft are now millions of miles beyond Mars.
Despite all that, both WALL-E and EVE performed incredibly well, relaying communications and even snapping images which were then sent back to Earth. If the brightness sensors that keep them pointing at the Sun have malfunctioned, the batteries may be unable to recharge. NASA is doubtful that they will check in again, but their success is seen as a good sign for the future of CubeSats on NASA missions.
The mission team has several theories for why they have not been able to contact the pair. They are in orbit around the sun and the farther they are, the more hard it would be to contact them. The farther the MarCOs are, the more precisely they need to point their antennas to communicate with Earth.More news: Jurgen Klopp confirms positive timeframe for Joe Gomez’s return for Liverpool
JPL hasn't ruled out restoring contact with the MarCO cubesats, which are still receding from the sun in their heliocentric orbits but will start to move closer again this summer. The team will reattempt to contact the CubeSats at that time, though it's anyone's guess whether their batteries and other parts will last that long.
A number of the critical spare parts for each MarCO will be used in other CubeSat missions. NASA is set to launch a variety of new CubeSats in coming years.
More small spacecraft are on the way.
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