NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover was the candle that just kept burning. Built to operate for just 90 Martian days, it lived for over 14 years until yesterday, when NASA officially pronounced it dead.
The Opportunity rover drove over 28 miles on Mars and spent over 14 years providing unique images of the Red Planet to scientists on Earth.
The death knell for the rover was a dust storm in Mars in June 2018 that obscured the Sun and covered Oppy’s solar panels. But the rover didn’t perish without sending out one final message. Transmitted in data bursts on June 10, 2018, the sad message roughly translates to: “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”
Although NASA tried to wake Opportunity with many recovery commands and songs, including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Life On Mars?”, and “I Will Survive,” the rover was unresponsive. NASA even published its official “Opportunity, Wake Up!” playlist on Spotify for your listening pleasure.
At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, project manager John Callas delivered an emotional speech to a hundreds of NASA workers in a packed auditorium. “This is a hard day,” he said. “Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point.”
The exploration of the Red Planet continues nonetheless. NASA’s InSight lander and Curiosity are both exploring Mars at the moment.
H/T: The New York Times