Engineer Joel Steinkraus stands with both of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Engineer Joel Steinkraus stands with both of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The one on the left is folded up the way it will be stowed on its rocket; the one on the right has its solar panels fully deployed, along with its high-gain antenna on top. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats -- a kind of modular, mini-satellite -- flown in deep space. They're designed to fly along behind NASA's InSight lander on its cruise to Mars. If they make the journey, they will test a relay of data about InSight's entry, descent and landing back to Earth. Though InSight's mission will not depend on the success of the MarCOs, they will be a test of how CubeSats can be used in deep space.

The MarCO and InSight projects are managed for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

View all Images