They are now traveling towards Mars in support of NASA's InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) robotic lander, which will attempt to touch down on the Red Planet on November 26.
"We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther", says Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer.
This picture, showing Earth as a bluish speck and the moon as a faint blip, was captured by one of the two MarCO CubeSats that were launched toward Mars on May 5 as piggyback payloads for NASA's Mars InSight mission.
The cubesats are following NASA's InSight lander to the red planet.
"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone", Klesh said.
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).
In 1990, NASA's Voyager 1 space probe was instructed to take one final image of Earth before it left the Solar System and entered interstellar space, at the request of renowned astronomer and author Carl Sagan. The CubeSat used its fish-eye camera to capture the image and sent it back to Earth after the team successfully unfolded its high-gain antenna on May 9. According to NASA, these antennas are crucial to the MarCO mission and will serve to relay data on the InSight lander's entry in the Martian atmosphere.
The cubesats - formally called MarCO-A and MarCO-B - have a ways to go. "Both our Cubesats are healthy and functioning properly".
MarCO-B is a CubeSat-a class of small, cube-shaped spacecraft that were originally created to teach university students about satellites.
MarCO-A and MarCO-B, which were built at JPL, are conducting a demonstration mission - basically, their handlers aim to show that cubesats can indeed help explore distant destinations. The lander - whose name is short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport" - will perform three different experiments to investigate Mars' internal structure and composition over its roughly two-Earth-year prime mission. Nevertheless, the main mission for the two satellites is to follow the InSight Mars mission to the Red Planet and in that way, demonstrate the suitability of small spacecraft traveling toward deep space. After this successful first image transmission, the twin satellites will attempt their first trajectory correction maneuvers later this month, NASA reported.