The two Mars Cube One satellites, the small CubeSats that took off towards the Red Planet in May 2018, went “dark” with no apparent reason, puzzling NASA which doesn’t know why that happened. The MarCO space probes (as the Mars Cube One satellites are known – MarCO-A and MarCO-B) gone silent as they past Mars, the US space agency reported a couple of days ago.
“This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us,” said Andy Klesh, the mission’s chief engineer at JPL, said in a statement. “We’ve put a stake in the ground. Future CubeSats might go even farther.”
While the two Mars Cube One satellites have launched towards Mars as a test project for advanced communication systems in deep space, the fact that they went “dark” is puzzling the US space agency’s scientists. It might be that the small space probes reached their limits, as Andy Klesh said, but not everyone agrees with that.
Mars Cube One Satellites Went “Dark” And NASA Doesn’t Know Why
“The brightness sensors that allow the CubeSats to stay pointed at the Sun and recharge their batteries could be another factor. The MarCO sats are in orbit around the Sun and will only get farther away as February wears on. The farther they are, the more precisely they need to point their antennas to communicate with Earth,” NASA JPL said in a statement.
The two Marc Cube One satellites will move again toward the Sun during the summer. Then, NASA plans to attempt to contact the MarCO satellites once again, hoping that the batteries and the components of the two satellites last until them.
“There’s big potential in these small packages. CubeSats – part of a larger group of spacecraft called SmallSats – are a new platform for space exploration that is affordable to more than just government agencies,” said John Baker, the MarCO program manager at JPL, in the statement.
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