Latest in Science

Image credit:

CubeSats will escort NASA's InSight lander to Mars in 2016

16 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

NASA's InSight lander will make its way to the red planet with two smaller companions: briefcase-sized CubeSats called Mars Cube One (MarCO). Each one measures 14.4 x 9.5 x 4.6 inches and is comprised of six 4-inch square cube satellites. All three of them will be ferried to space aboard an Atlas V rocket, but the smaller solar-powered spacecraft will be operating independently from InSight to act as its link with the ground team. See, the MarCOs are actually communications-relay satellites, programmed to fly over the planet while the lander is descending. Without them, InSight will first have to radio its landing and descent info to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will then forward it to Earth.

Unfortunately, that method takes time, and the ground team will only know if the landing was successful over an hour later. The CubeSats will allow InSight, which is equipped with tools to dig deep beneath the surface of Mars, to instantly transmit its message back to Earth. According to NASA, this will be the first deep space mission to deploy the pint-sized satellites. It most likely won't be the last either, as the agency is currently working on a CubeSat design specifically for exploring other planets.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Source: NASA
In this article: cubesat, insight, marco, mars, space
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
16 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Two Halo characters are joining ‘Gears 5’

Two Halo characters are joining ‘Gears 5’

View
Sony Interactive snaps up 'Spider-Man' developer Insomniac Games

Sony Interactive snaps up 'Spider-Man' developer Insomniac Games

View
Microsoft’s SMS Organizer will declutter your texts

Microsoft’s SMS Organizer will declutter your texts

View
Twitter bans advertising from state-controlled news outlets

Twitter bans advertising from state-controlled news outlets

View
'Cyberpunk 2077' and 'Mortal Kombat 11' are coming to Google Stadia

'Cyberpunk 2077' and 'Mortal Kombat 11' are coming to Google Stadia

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr