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NASA Fires CubeSat Thrusters, Steers Towards Mars

Closely trailing behind NASA's InSight mission, the two CubeSats nicknamed Wall-E and Eva have been doing course corrections all week long.
NASA CubeSat illustration 1 photo
Officially called trajectory correction maneuver, the successive firing of the satellites' propulsion systems was required to put the two tiny machines on the right path towards an encounter with Mars. The spacecraft they are following did the same earlier in May and it is expected to do it again several times over the following months.

The two CubeSats are being used by NASA to track and follow the lander through space. The main goal of the two machines is to document the lander’s entry into the Martian atmosphere, a first for any human space mission to the neighboring planet.

The CubeSat family started life as a tool for NASA to teach engineering students how to build spacecraft. The InSight mission is the first use of this satellites for deep space missions, as they have never left Earth orbit before. Usually, they are used in Earth’s orbit at altitudes below 497 miles (800 kilometers).

Should they succeed, NASA will use the data gathered from this mission to learn more and apply that knowledge in future Mars landings. The CubeSats have also been chosen to become assistance tools for the various missions NASA plans in the future, including the building of a lunar-orbital space station

"Our broadest goal was to demonstrate how low-cost CubeSat technology can be used in deep space for the first time," said in a statement John Baker, program manager for planetary SmallSats at JPL.

"With both MarCOs on their way to Mars, we've already traveled farther than any CubeSat before them."

InSIght, the mission the two machines are part of, is supposed to get a lander to the Red Planet to study Mars' deep interior using seismology and other geophysical measurements. The word stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.


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