NASA CubeSat Wall-E Sends Back Shot of Earth Taken on the Way to Mars

After the Mars InSight mission took off a week or so ago, expectation was high among NASA scientists that the mission, journey included, would be a hit.
Earth and Moon dancing in space in CubeSat photo 4 photos
The MoonOrion space capsuleSpace Launch System (SLS)
So far, things do look pretty good. The two CubeSats sent to accompany and document the journey of InSight have already proven they’re in working order. Earlier this week, they also proved the concept of small robotic satellites might be a game changer.

Nearly 30 years after Voyager 1 sent back to Earth a photo of humanity’s home planet, taken from several billion miles away, the two CubeSats, nicknamed by NASA engineers Wall-E and Eva, did the same, but from a distance of only 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers).

The photo released by NASA on Tuesday shows both the Earth and the Moon in one rather blurry shot. The picture was taken by Wall-E, using a fisheye camera. Impressive as it is, this feat also acted as a test to see whether the spacecraft's high-gain antenna has properly unfolded.

The two CubeSats have already made history, after becoming the first satellites of their kind to reach such a distance from Earth.

"Consider it our homage to Voyager," said Andy Klesh, NASA chief engineer in charge with the project.

"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone. Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther."

The CubeSat family started life as a tool for NASA to teach engineering students how to build spacecraft. Because of their briefcase-size, they have been chosen to become assistance tools for the various missions NASA plans in the future, including the building of a lunar-orbital space station.

Usually, they are used in Earth’s orbit at altitudes below 497 miles (800 kilometers). The two launched together with InSight will be riding alongside the ship transporting InSight to document the journey and, should they survive the trip, the lander’s entry into the Martian atmosphere.


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