Taking the Opportunity to Acknowledge Opportunity


Source: Wikicommons

Oppy roving around on Mars, where she will now remain forever.

Jordan Barish, Staff Writer

On July 7th, 2003, a robotic rover named “Opportunity”, nicknamed “Oppy” was launched as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Program. Opportunity reached Mars by January 2004 and was meant to go on a mission lasting 90 sols, which is about 92 Earth days (92.47 to be exact). The purpose of the mission was for Opportunity and her “twin” Spirit to find evidence of ancient water on Mars. The Spirit rover, also meant to be active for 90 sols only lasted until May of 2011 after using up its energy reserves to escape soft soil. Opportunity, however, continued to be on an active mission until February 13, 2019 when NASA officially declared that Oppy’s mission was complete.

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers website has an archive for every update on Opportunity since she landed on Mars over 15 years ago. Over the course of those 15 years, Oppy was at the forefront of exploration as she revealed unknown details about Mars’ habitat and traveled to uncharted areas on the planet. Initially, Opportunity was meant to travel 1,100 yards. She ended up amassing a total of 28 miles on the Red planet. Her 15 year life span makes her the longest running rover who provided Earth with out-of-this-world information and 217,594 images of Mars.

A destructive dust storm occurred on Mars in June of 2018 which caused Oppy to go to sleep in the hopes that she could wait out the storm and then regain enough solar power to continue on her mission. Unfortunately, Opportunity did not wake up or respond to any of the recovery commands sent by NASA. It has been reported that the last message Oppy sent back to Earth was the robot equivalent of “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” On Tuesday night, when NASA finally declared Opportunity’s mission as being complete, a final recovery command was sent along with a wake-up song: I’ll Be Seeing You by Billie Holiday. One verse in particular from that song is incredibly poignant:

I’ll find you in the morning sun

And when the night is new

I’ll be looking at the moon

But I’ll be seeing you”

Oppy may not have been a truly living being capable of love or pain, but she was an extension of the human race. She represented the curiosity that festers within many of us and the desire for a deeper knowledge that drives people to break boundaries and take things to the next level. Maybe one day someone will recover Oppy, dust her off, and bring her home but until that day, she will be remembered as the little rover that could.