Students from the on-campus organization Cal Poly CubeSat Laboratory, or PolySat, helped integrate two CubeSats for launch in May, which just became the first spacecrafts of their kind to photograph Mars. The two CubeSats — MarCO-A and MarCO-B, collectively called MarCO — are twin miniaturized satellites, each roughly the size of a briefcase, that will be testing communications capabilities in deep space.
PolySat members partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) to help integrate MarCO before take-off, which involved final spacecraft check ups and securing both CubeSats into their deployers. MarCO-B captured a photo of Mars on October 3 as part of a test in exposure settings and the image was released by NASA October 22.
The image, which was taken approximately eight million miles away from Mars, is mainly black with a pale, red dot in the bottom right corner. What could easily be mistaken as a speck of dust is another historic achievement for the MarCO mission. The two CubeSats were the first interplanetary miniaturized satellites of their kind, and now the first to photograph Mars in deep space.
The image was shared on JPL’s instagram and retweeted on NASA’s official twitter. As MarCO travels closer to Mars, with a pass-by planned for late November, more photos are expected to be released.