Maria Montero

Tiny satellites go silent after testing the …

NASA said it hasn’t heard from them in over a month, and it doubts it ever will. (Image: AP)

Two tiny satellites have gone silent hundreds of millions of kilometers away, after testing the new technology on Mars. Twin CubeSats, nicknamed WALL-E and EVE, followed NASA InSight’s landing on Mars last year. When the lander descended to the Martian surface in November, briefcase-sized satellites flew past the red planet, providing real-time updates to ground controllers in this first experiment of its kind.

This week NASA said it hasn’t heard from them in over a month, and it doubts it ever will. WALL-E, which had been losing fuel since takeoff last May, radioed on December 29. It is now more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) beyond Mars. EVE went to her mother on January 4; They are almost 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) beyond the red planet.

These were the first CubeSats to venture into deep space, part of an $ 18.5 million experiment to see if such compact and cheap devices could serve as radio transmitters on distant worlds.

“There is great potential in these small packages,” program manager John Baker of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

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Chief Engineer Andy Klesh noted that the mission was to push the boundaries of miniaturized technology.

“We have put a stake in the ground,” he said. “Future CubeSats could go even further.”

Engineers speculate that WALL-E and EVE could wobble and be unable to accurately aim to send messages, or there could be problems with recharging the battery. In any case, the mini satellites will remain in an elongated orbit around the sun. They were named after the main characters in the 2008 animated film. Meanwhile, NASA is still trying to get in touch with the Mars Landing Opportunity, silenced last June by a global dust storm that blocked sunlight. reach your solar panels. Managers see it as a last-ditch effort to get to Opportunity, which recently turned 15 on Mars.