Almost 30 years after Voyager 1 sent back to Earth a photo of humanity's home planet, taken from several billion miles away, the two CubeSats, nicknamed by NASA engineers Wall-E and Eva, did the same, but from a distance of only 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers).
NASA's Mars Insight mission soaked up all the glory on launch day on May 5, but the lander had a couple of less-well-known companions. One of then, called MarCO-B - and affectionately known as "Wall-E" to the MarCO team - used a fisheye camera to snap its first photo. As a bonus, the team captured the Earth and the Moon in the shot.
Nasa chose to release the image taken by the miniature satellites in homage to one of the space exploration programmes most famous predecessors, the Voyager mission.
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.
"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.
"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone", Klesh pointed out.
MarCO's softball-size radio provides both UHF (receive only) and X-band (receive and transmit) functions capable of immediately relaying information received over UHF.
MarCO chief engineer Andy Klesh called the image a "homage to Voyager". It resembles the Earth's image when it was snapped back in 1990.
NASA has always been able to check out Mars on the ground with rovers and landers and from far above with orbital spacecraft.
If they survive the extreme cold of deep space and successfully send the data, it may prove that smaller satellites have a place in space exploration alongside much larger, bulkier crafts.
Just like the "marscopter" that the space agency is planning to launch on the upcoming Mars 2020 mission, the MarCO satellites represent a demonstration technology aimed to test CubeSat capabilities on an alien planet, as well as their resistance to the extreme radiation of deep space.
A cubesat is a miniature satellite that has been sent into space. The better news is that Earth and the moon showed up in the frame as well.
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.
Each spacecraft carries a golden record on board - a record that includes sounds, pictures and messages of Earth.
'The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers, ' said Nasa's Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science mission directorate.
'They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond'.
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