Tiny probe snaps fresh picture of our Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot picture
The nanosatellite known as MarCO-B or Wall-E took this picture of Earth and the moon from a distance of more than 620,000 miles. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

You don’t have to fly beyond the orbit of Neptune to see our home planet as a Pale Blue Dot. One of the first nanosatellites to travel beyond Earth orbit has proven that in a new version of the view first made famous by “Cosmos” astronomer Carl Sagan.

This picture, showing Earth as a bluish speck and the moon as a faint blip, was captured by one of the two MarCO CubeSats that were launched toward Mars on May 5 as piggyback payloads for NASA’s Mars InSight mission.

Each of the MarCO (“MarCube One”) probes is roughly the size of a small briefcase, and stuffed with experimental equipment that will come into play during their Red Planet flyby in November.

Last week, the MarCO-B spacecraft (also known as Wall-E) snapped a picture with its wide-field color camera to check the deployment of its high-gain antenna.

The good news is that the pint-sized antenna has unfolded properly, as seen in the picture. The better news is that Earth and the moon showed up in the frame as well.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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