A Tiny Satellite Headed to Mars Looks Back at Earth

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

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

But that changed on May 5, when the InSight mission launched. Nevertheless, the main mission for the two satellites is to follow the InSight Mars mission to the Red Planet and in that way, demonstrate the suitability of small spacecraft traveling toward deep space.

Because of the difference in the atmosphere on Mars, the blades of the Mars Helicopter can ramp up to 3000rpm, which NASA says is 10 times the speed of a normal helicopter.

NASA is set to make aviation history with the first test of a heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet.

A tiny satellite bound for Mars has captured an incredible image of the Earth and the moon that may leave you feeling insignificant against the backdrop of the cosmos.

"Consider it our homage to Voyager", said Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Altogether, the machine weighs in at around 4 pounds and is created to attach to and deploy from the underside of the Mars Rover. InSight and the twin MarCO CubeSats will bend their trajectories back toward Mars with a series of maneuvers over the coming months.

"After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world", he said.

The helicopter is created to carry within it everything needed to operate on Mars.

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

The craft is also outfitted with solar cells to charge the lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm on the cold Martian surface.

The helicopter will be attached to the Mars 2020 rover, and deploy once the probe reaches the red planet.

"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet".

The sheer distance between the planets makes remote piloting impractical, Aung said. "Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own". Eventually, that will expand to farther distances, at most a few hundred meters, with trips lasting as much as 90 seconds. What MarCO will be doing is acting as a technological demonstration.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", said Zurbuchen. That job will fall to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas voiced his approval of the plan, saying, "This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future".

MarCO-A and Marco-B were built at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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