NASA’s “WALL-E” satellite has mysteriously gone silent after zooming past Mars and the government space agency isn’t sure why.
The small satellite (known as a cube satellite or cubesat) is one of the first two to leave Earth’s orbit. The satellites have not communicated with the government space agency for more than a month, NASA said on Tuesday. The two MarCO spacecraft (MarCO-A and MarCO-B) were launched from Earth in May 2018 and it’s possible that the devices may have simply reached their limits.
“This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us,” Andy Klesh, the mission’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. “We’ve put a stake in the ground. Future CubeSats might go even farther.”
The launch of the two MarCO (short for Mars Cube One) spacecraft was a demonstration project and done in conjunction with the InSight lander to show the prowess of these small satellites. They were nicknamed WALL-E and EVE after the Pixar characters of the same names and were last heard from on Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, respectively.
The InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of the Red Planet on Nov. 26, ending a journey that lasted six months and more than 300 million miles.
NASA said that based on trajectory calculations, WALL-E is more than 1 million miles past Mars, while EVE is almost 2 million miles past the Red Planet.