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NASA's MarCO Spacecraft Snaps First Image of Mars (PHOTO)

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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released on Monday the very first photo produced from the agency's Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission, which is intended to relay data back to Earth as the two tiny spacecraft and the InSight Mars lander make their way to Mars.

The image was initially snapped October 2 by MarCO B, one of the twin MarCO CubeSats, during an exposure test of the space probe's wide-angle camera when it was some 8 million miles from the Red Planet. Mars appears as a small red dot in the lower left portion of the photo.

© Courtesy of NASA/JPL-CaltechOne of NASA's twin MarCO spacecraft took this image of Mars on October 2 -- the first time a CubeSat, a kind of low-cost, briefcase-sized spacecraft -- has done so.
One of NASA's twin MarCO spacecraft took this image of Mars on October 2 -- the first time a CubeSat, a kind of low-cost, briefcase-sized spacecraft -- has done so. - Sputnik International
One of NASA's twin MarCO spacecraft took this image of Mars on October 2 -- the first time a CubeSat, a kind of low-cost, briefcase-sized spacecraft -- has done so.

In order to line up the image correctly, NASA officials had to program the CubeSats to rotate in space so as to not photograph parts of the spacecraft's body. In the photo, bits of the craft's antenna can be seen along the right border and the left bottom corner.

"We've been waiting six months to get to Mars," Cody Colley, MarCO's mission manager at JPL, said. "The cruise phase of the mission is always difficult, so you take all the small wins when they come."

"Finally seeing the planet is definitely a big win for the team," he added.

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light, in this handout image provided by NASA - Sputnik International
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Though the twin spacecraft are officially known as MarCO A and MarCO B, they have been bestowed the nicknames "Eve" and "Wall-E" by their engineering teams, according to a statement released by the space agency. The nicknames were taken from the 2008 Pixar film "Wall-E."

Launched alongside NASA's InSight Mars lander in early May, researchers have indicated that both CubeSats are effectively "chasing" Mars as it orbits the sun, in order to be in position to capture InSight's landing on the planet.

InSight Mars is expected to land November 26.

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