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[Image above] Credit: Reactions; YouTube

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is preparing to send CubeSats on their first interplanetary mission—a journey to Mars.

This is a first for CubeSats, miniature satellites that are strikingly compact and lightweight. CubeSats are small, light, and inexpensive, which means that CubeSats really fly in the face of what most people think about NASA missions, and space missions in general—big, expensive equipment that takes years of development and countless dollars of R&D before it’s up and running.

CubeSats are instead focused on completing a specific job, making them much simpler and easier to develop. Although CubeSats are simplified satellites, however, anything that flies into space has complex materials demands to be able to survive the harsh environment beyond earth’s protective atmosphere.

For example, Stephanie recently reported that the Juno spacecraft’s close-up with Jupiter was only possible because the craft was equipped to survive intensely high levels of X-radiation. Specialized materials and coatings, such as cerium oxide coatings, help protect the delicate technology onboard and allow such engineering achievements to survive in space.

CubeSats have successfully went to space before, but this new mission will mark the first time they travel from Earth to another planet.

NASA’s InSight mission will travel to Mars in 2018 to probe the geoscience of the red planet. Two Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats will tag along for the mission, independently trekking on a six-month journey to Mars, where they will meet up with the rest of the mission solely to relay information back from the Insight lander.

Watch the ACS Reactions video below to learn more about these cute and pioneering CubeSats and their upcoming mission.

Credit: Reactions; YouTube