The InSight lander from NASA did not leave alone for its trip to Mars that lasts seven months. InSight was followed on its journey by a spacecraft called MarCO which is the size of two suitcases. No other cube satellites have ever flown into deep space. After this experience, they are gone.
NASA used the MarCO satellites to make sure that nothing goes wrong with the entry, descent, and landing of the InSight on 26th November. The satellites were named after the robots from a 2008 Pixar Film, WALL-E and EVE.
According to NASA, the success of these satellites, as they were part of an experiment, was measured by survival. Engineers were excited by the fact that the small satellites which were flying behind InSight made it to Mars.
And as everything has a beginning, it must have an end too.
MarCO kept on flying after InSight landed safely on Mars. During that time the team behind the flying suitcases wanted to take a more in-depth look at their performance and to determine how much fuel they consumed by collecting data from each satellite.
According to the MarCO chief engineer, Andy Klesh at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, EVE and WALL-E fulfilled the team’s expectations. The last time the two satellite made contact with the engineers was on the 4th of January and 29th of December. With that being said, based on their estimations, WALL-E is more 1 million miles past Mars while EVE is now 2 million miles past Mars.
The team is not surprised by the fact that the communication was lost. They think that WALL-E’s thruster leaked which caused control issues which consisted of being unable to receive and send commands. Another cause might have been the battery issues. However, both these satellites can be pointed toward the sun by their sensors, and they can recharge.
Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.