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What are CubeSats and why are they on Mars?

On May 5, 2018, NASA launched a spacecraft called InSight that landed on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018. Riding along with InSight were two CubeSats—the first of this kind of spacecraft to fly to deep space. The CubeSats were part of a technology demonstration mission called Mars Cube One (MarCO).

What is the Mars Cube One mission?

Mars Cube One (or MarCO) is a Mars flyby mission consisting of two nanospacecraft, of the 6U CubeSat format, that was launched on 5 May 2018 alongside NASA's InSight Mars lander mission.

Can CubeSats be used for space missions?

Several missions to the Moon and Mars are planning to use CubeSats. In May 2018, the two MarCO CubeSats became the first CubeSats to leave Earth orbit, on their way to Mars alongside the successful InSight mission. Some CubeSats have become the first ever satellite of a country, being launched by universities, state-owned, or private companies.

What happened to NASA’s CubeSats?

On 5 February 2019, NASA reported that both the CubeSats had gone silent by 5 January 2019, and are unlikely to be heard from again. In August 2019, the CubeSats were honored for their role in the successful landing of the InSight lander on Mars.

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