The Insight Mars lander is not going to Mars alone. Two CubeSats called Wall-E and Eva will be joining the trip. These two CubeSats collectively called MarCo in short for Mars Cube One has different tasks on the Red Planet.
Marco will stay around Mars and test if they can send Information from the Insight back to earth. CubeSats have never made such journey into deep space, this is like a test mission for Cubesat, and NASA wants to know if the Cubesat would succeed in the mission.
NASA does not depend solely on the CubeSats to communicate to the lander. Hence, even if the CubeSats fail, NASA will not lose information from the lander. Other orbiters will relay information to earth.
However, it would be good news since the CubeSats are cheaper and easier to use. According to Joel Krajewski, the project manager for MarCo and a NASA engineer said that, If the MarCo succeed in relaying information from the Insight to earth, NASA will send CubeSats to other planets and moons to aid communication in deep space.
According to Joel, CubeSats could be one of the things that will reduce the cost of the already expensive exploration missions. Usually, they build and launch massive spacecraft to relay information back to earth during space explorations, but they could send these light CubeSats.
Joel also spoke about NASA’s intentions to send a lander into a deep crater south of moon, and they would need to send a satellite to relay information. They can send CubeSats if the MarCo test is successful.
The CubeSats carry radio and antenna that would relay information back to earth. One of the concerns for these CubeSats is the severe conditions through which they would travel to the orbit. Wall-E and Eva would go through frigid temperatures as well as various space radiations, and it would be a delight if they survive through it all.
The Insight Mars lander is expected to explore Mars’ interior from the ground. The Insight and two CubeSats will travel aboard the Atlas V rocket on Saturday. The launch will happen at 7:05 am at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
On May 5, NASA would not only launch the Insight lander and CubeSats, it is also expecting the splashdown of the SpaceX Dragon cargo that would return from the International Space Station. The cargo will splash into the Pacific Ocean.