There are two silent protagonists in the news that NASA arrived (again) on Mars, but in practice they were fundamental, so the world could know that the Insight probe had successfully landed on the red planet. These are Wall-E and Eva, two nanosatellites who worked as guardians of a robot that would explore the Martian soil.They followed the operation at a distance and in a matter of minutes sent to Earth a confirmation that everything went well.
Satellites attract attention by name. Although formally they are MarCO-A and MarCO-B (for the program they are part of), NASA scientists called them characters for the 2008 Pixar film. There are two for a simple reason: if someone failed, another could continue the mission,
The two MarCO satellites that followed the Insight probe landing. (AP)
The MarCO mission, explained by NASA at the Insight probe site, was created to test whether these two small experimental spacecraft — the size of a portfolio — could survive a journey into deep space. These two nano-satellite, known as CubeSats, proved to be more than capable,
For seven months, they traveled from Earth to Mars behind the Insight probe, and then settled on the periphery to be able to convey the details of the landing that took place this Monday.
“WALL-E and EVA worked the way we expected,” said Marco Chief Engineer Andy Klesh from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This is where CubeSats were the developers. “They were a great test of how this might happen in future missions,” updating the landing status for a minute.
As specified by the space agency, they used experimental radio stations and antennas and only 8 minutes when sending data to Earth,
The first image that Insight sent after landing on Martian soil. (EFE)
Due to the difficulties associated with landing on Mars (only 40% of attempts were successful), for scientists this model of small satellites works as a possible black box for recording the accident, and then will be able to investigate it and improve future attempts.
One detail: the project was mainly developed by young scientists, and in many cases this was due to first experience in space flightConsequently, success has an extra flavor for them.
After landing, MarCO-B turned to say goodbye to the red planet. He also tried to take some pictures of the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos.
Image of Mars, who took one of the satellites from a distance of more than a thousand kilometers. (Reuters)
“Wall-e sent some excellent postcards to Mars!” Said Cody Colley, of JPL, MarCO mission manager, who led the planning work for each CubeSat for the shoot.
Having achieved the mission goals, the Marco team will spend the next weeks collecting additional data from each CubeSat.
Meanwhile, on Mars, Insight is now photographing the earth, so engineers can decide where to place the spacecraft's scientific instruments. NASA estimates that it will take up to two to three months before these tools are fully implemented and the data is sent.