Friday, 22 February, 2019


NASA’s first deep space mini spacecraft go silent

MISSING NASA has lost contact with two of its Mars robots MISSING NASA has lost contact with two of its Mars robots
Kristine Garrett | 09 February, 2019, 10:53

WALL-E, which last communicated with Earth on December 29, is slightly more than one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) beyond the Red Planet while EVE, which last contacted Earth on January 4, is close to two million miles (3.2 million kilometers) past Mars.

The loss of communication isn't entirely a surprise. The agency knows of a problem Wall-E has with a leaky thruster, and there's also doubt the two are capable of correctly pointing their antennas towards Earth as they go deeper into space.

Repeated attempts to communicate with the satellites have failed.

"This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us", Klesh said.

Each weighing only 13.5kg and measuring about the size of a briefcase, the small spacecraft are much cheaper to manufacture and send to space than fully fledged probes. But it's rare for them to go adventuring so far from home.

"CubeSats have incredible potential to carry cameras and science instruments out to deep space", said John Baker, JPL's program manager for small spacecraft.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 14kg satellites named WALL-E and EVE. "But they're low-priced ride-alongs that can allow us to explore in new ways". After a successful dome deployment on Saturday, another milestone for the craft has been reached, bringing InSight's team one step closer to understanding the secrets of the planet's early formative years by studying its core.

But at first more about their capabilities needed to be known. "We are proud of their accomplishment".

After their work around Mars, the two spacecraft continued into deep space.

This paves the way for new CubeSats that NASA will launch. The satellites have not communicated with the government space agency for more than a month, NASA said on Tuesday.

So how is InSight doing?

The seismometer records the waves traveling through the interior structure of a planet.

In addition to a protective dome, InSight's seismometer itself adjusts for the changing Martian surface. To do that, an instrument shield was designed which has now been deployed as a first line of defense: It's a white dome with a chain mail and thermal blanket skirt on the bottom called the "Wind and Thermal Shield".

Because InSight's location includes a few rocks, the shield has a chain mail skirt around the bottom to help it settle over the surface. The temperature here can fluctuate by about 170 degrees Fahrenheit over the day, the agency said. "Think of the shield as putting a cozy over your food on a table. In general, we want to keep the temperature as steady as possible". After a flawless live-streamed Martian surface landing shortly thereafter, Earthlings were treated to a (slightly dusty) photo taken by one of InSight's on-board cameras, providing visual confirmation of the arrival.

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