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The MarCO-B CubeSat saw Earth and the moon from over 600,000 miles away.


NASA's Mars Insight mission soaked up all the glory on launch day on May 5, but the lander had a couple of less-well-known companions. The space agency also launched two CubeSats, briefcase-size mini-satellites. One of them sent back a charmingly dainty view of our home planet.

The MarCO-B CubeSat, known by the cute nickname "Wall-E," snapped a photo on May 9 as proof it was able to properly unfold its high-gain antenna, which it'll need to communicate from Mars. That photo also includes Earth as a small light-blue dot and the moon as an even fainter point.

NASA shared the image on Tuesday. You can check out an annotated version of the photo pointing out the planet, moon and parts of the CubeSat.

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This annotated version shows the planet and parts of the CubeSat.


NASA likens the MarCO-B image to a classic one taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 showing Earth as a "Pale Blue Dot" from several billion miles away.

The adventurous twin spacecraft set a new record for CubeSats on May 8 when they hit a distance of 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth.

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The two CubeSats, known together as Mars Cube One (MarCO-A and MarCO-B), are the first of their kind to venture into deep space. They are trailing along after Insight on their very own mission to test their design against the rigors of traveling all the way to the red planet. If the mission goes as planned, they'll help send back information about InSight's descent and landing on Mars.

"CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it's a big milestone. Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We're looking forward to seeing them travel even farther," says Andy Klesh, MarCO's chief engineer.

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