Tiny satellites WALL-E and EVE fall silent

Tiny satellites WALL-E and EVE fall silent

Tiny satellites WALL-E and EVE fall silent

"This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us", said Andy Klesh, the mission's chief engineer at JPL.

It was accompanied by two tiny satellites called CubeSats, or in this case, MarCO, for Mars Cube One. But now, more than two months after InSight landed, the CubeSats have gone silent as they continue drifting past Mars, and NASA doesn't expect to hear from them again. "Future CubeSats might go even farther", Klesh said.

It's known that WALL-E has a leaky thruster, which could be causing communication problems.

In a new post by NASA, scientists reveal that it's now been over a month since either of the MarCO CubeSats made contact with Earth, and nobody knows if we'll ever hear from them again. Trajectory data suggests that Wall-E is more than 1 million miles past Mars with EVE being almost 2 million miles past Mars.

NASA says it has lost contact with two tiny satellites that launched on a technology-proving mission to Mars past year. They were nicknamed WALL-E and EVE after the Pixar characters of the same name and were last heard from on December 29 and January 4, respectively.

They played a vital role during the recent landing of the InSight exploration craft on Mars, beaming back images of its descent in real time and also relaying data from the spaceship including its first picture from the Martian surface. The brightness sensors on the CubeSats, which allow them to stay pointed at the Sun and recharge their batteries, could be another factor.

The MarCOs are in orbit around the Sun and will only get farther away as February wears on. The farther the MarCOs are, the more precisely they need to point their antennas to communicate with Earth.

NASA said that the pair will not begin moving toward the sun until this summer.

The mission team fears that the pair of spacecraft has attitude-control issues that are preventing them from communicating with Earth.

However, Nasa admitted it's "anyone's guess whether their batteries and other parts will last that long".

Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Sciences Division, described the MarCo mission as "a demonstration of future potential capability" while MarCO program manager John Baker of JPL praised them as a technology affordable to private companies as well as to governments. NASA is set to launch a variety of new CubeSats in coming years.

The MarCO spacecraft were 6U cubesats launched in May 2018 as secondary payloads on the Atlas 5 that sent the InSight mission to Mars. NASA has, in recent years, shown a growing interest in using cubesats for a wide range of science missions, initially in Earth orbit but also potentially elsewhere in the solar system.

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