If all goes well, NASA's next mission, a Mars lander, will launch on May 5. But this robot will not be alone – it will have two tiny pickup satellites, the first spacecraft of its size to provide Earth's orbit safety
The satellites are each the size of a briefcase and will carry out a different mission than the mainlander , Their creators have named the pair Wall-E and Eve in honor of the characters from the Pixar movie, thanks to the scene in which Wall-E dances through space with a fire extinguisher that mimics how these two real spaceships move. 19659002] If they successfully survive their journey, the satellites, officially known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, will become communications stations around Mars.
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"These are our scouts," said Andy Klesh, chief engineer of the MarCO project, in one Press release. "CubeSats did not have to survive the intense radiation of a trip into space, or propel it to Mars, and we hope to pave the way."
CubeSats, the formal name for these small satellites, are very popular for use in Earth orbit as they are relatively cheap to develop and launch. More than 700 of these miniature satellites have been sent to space. [1
But unlike the other CubeSats, the MarCO satellites will pass through a compressed gas after launching which is often used in fire extinguishers. Each satellite can shoot this gas in eight directions to steer. (Other CubeSats use electromagnetic steering in combination with the magnetic field surrounding the earth.)
The new steering mechanism was necessary because to date, every single CubeSat satellite has remained in orbit around the Earth. Wall-E and Eve will be the first to go further, meaning they are exposed to the great threats that other CubeSats have avoided, especially radiation that damages human and robotic space researchers alike.
If They Survive the Months On the long, dangerous journey to Mars, they become relay messengers who pick up signals from the InSight Lander as they fly over them, then send those signals to Earth as they appear behind Mars , That should make communication with the red planet much faster. But it's a low-risk experiment: InSight will still be able to send signals directly to Earth if the CubeSats can not.