Beyond Mars, the Mini MarCO Spacecraft Fall Silent

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'This mission was always about pushing the limits of miniaturized technology and seeing just how far it could take us, ' said Andy Klesh, the mission's chief engineer.

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.

The two followed NASA's previous Mars aircraft, InSight which touched down on the red planet around the New Year.

But the missions demonstrated that CubeSats are a viable option for relaying data from deep space back to Earth, and future missions may bring their own communications relay to monitor touchdown. Additionally, one of WALL-E's thrusters is known to be leaking.

The briefcase-sized craft rode on the Insight Mars Lander, detaching shortly after leaving orbit.

In a new post by NASA, scientists reveal that it's now been over a month since either of the MarCO CubeSats made contact with Earth, and nobody knows if we'll ever hear from them again.

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Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 14kg satellites named WALL-E and EVE.

Launched previous year, the pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft known collectively as MarCO (Mars Cube One) - nicknamed EVE and WALL-E, after characters from a Pixar film - served as communications relays during InSight's landing, beaming back data at each stage of its descent to the Martian surface in near-real time.

When InSight landed on the red planet in November, MarCO - composed of CubeSats nicknamed EVE and WALL-E after Pixar film characters - relayed the lander's signals to mission control, beaming back data at each stage of the descent to the Martian surface.

Both WALL-E and EVE were built at JPL.

The MarCOs are in orbit around the Sun and would not start moving again until this summer.

Several theories are floating about (pun intended) as to why NASA has not been able to contact the two cubesats.

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They may have suffered malfunctions affecting the brightness sensors which point them towards the sun, allowing solar panels to recharge the crafts' batteries.

They will continue to fly away from Earth as February goes on which means receiving data even more hard. It's unknown if the batteries or any other components will last that long, however.

Even if they're never revived, the team considers MarCO a spectacular success.

A number of the critical spare parts for each MarCO will be used in other CubeSat missions.

JPL spokesman Andrew Good said February 5 that after the flyby the MarCO cubesats continued to transmit technical data about the performance of their various subsystems, including attitude control, propulsion and communications.

"There's big potential in these small packages", John Baker, the MarCO program manager at JPL said.

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