NASA's MarCO-B CubeSat Captures Earth-Moon Image

Tiny NASA satellite bound for Mars snaps photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

NASA satellite snaps adorable Earth portrait on way to Mars

Now, we have another pale blue dot image, this one captured by a tiny CubeSat spacecraft, one of a pair that's shadowing NASA's InSight lander to Mars.

MarCO-B, a CubeSat which is one of the U.S. space agency's two The Mars Cube One satellites, used a fisheye camera to snap its first photo on May 9.

As a bonus, it captured Earth and its moon as tiny specks floating in space, the United States space agency added.

NASA shared the image on Tuesday.

Voyager 1 and 2 took advantage of a once in a lifetime event where a spacecraft could use the gravitational pull from different celestial bodies to visit all four giant outer planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Instead of the pale blue dot resemblance, there is now no such similarities between the Cubesats (MarCO-A and MarCO-B) and the Voyager 1 of 1990. "We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", says Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer.

"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone". 'Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly.

The MarCO satellites are traveling separately from InSight, even though they launched aboard the same rocket.

Despite the "pale blue dot" photos' similarity, the two cubesats, known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, are nowhere near as far afield as Voyager 1 was back in 1990.

The InSight Mars mission was launched by NASA on May 5th to provide insight into the internal dynamics of the Red Planet.

The CubeSats will follow Nasa spacecraft InSight on its cruise to Mars, testing out miniature spacecraft technology along the way. The space agency also launched two CubeSats, briefcase-size mini-satellites. Each MarCO will attempt to receive that data stream, format it and relay it Earthward in near-real-time to NASA's Deep Space Network.

They are often made of commercial off the shelf products and are a low-priced option for space exploration.

Though they were originally developed to teach university students about satellites, CubeSats are now a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes.

You don't have to fly beyond the orbit of Neptune to see our home planet as a Pale Blue Dot. Earth will be oriented so that the information relayed via MarCO will go to the Madrid, Spain, station of the Deep Space Network, from which it will be routed to the InSight mission operations team.

Each spacecraft carries a golden record on board - a record that includes sounds, pictures and messages of Earth.

"NASA has a proud history of firsts", said NASA's new Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

If the tests work, NASA will be closer to exploring the Red Planet in a different way. Voyager 1 is now 13 billion miles away from Earth, travelling northward through space.

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