NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
NASA tried. The space agency spent months trying to contact the Opportunity rover on Mars ever since it went silent in June 2018 beneath the weight of an epic, solar panel-smothering dust storm on Mars.
Scientists and space fans are awaiting, but they’re already coming together to mourn the valiant rover online.
Mars fan StillMe shared a sweet tribute in a language the machine would understand, translating “Godspeed Oppy” into ones and zeroes.
NASA software engineer Kevin Gill shared a close-up look at a wheel track Opportunity left on Mars. “It has left its tracks. And though the winds may erase them, the memory and the science will live on forever,” he wrote.
Graphic designer Dan Mason applied the Dylan Thomas poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” to Opportunity, but also reminded us the original 90-day mission ended up spanning almost 15 years.
Actor George Takei, known for playing Sulu on Star Trek, shared a hopeful message wondering if humans might one day set foot on Mars and recover the intrepid rover.
Artist Abby Garrett created an illustration to remind us that Oppy and its sibling rover Spirit will be waiting for us to visit them.
An XKCD comic about Opportunity ties the rover’s distant adventures into the human love of sharing new discoveries.
The emotions welling up around Oppy have caught some people by surprise. “I never imagined I’d be sitting at my computer crying over a last message from a robot on Mars, but here I sit wiping away tears,” said writer Jocelyn Rish.
I never imagined I’d be sitting at my computer crying over a last message from a robot on Mars, but here I sit wiping away tears. Job well done, #Oppy. https://t.co/4TOArVH62C
— Jocelyn Rish (@JocelynRish) February 13, 2019
Twitter is talking about how Opportunity’s last message basically consisted of “my battery is low and it’s getting dark.” Writer Louis Peitzman decided to respond by spending the rest of the day watching Wall-E and sobbing.
I’m sorry, I just found out the last message sent by the Mars rover was “my battery is low and it is getting dark,” so now I have to spend the rest of the day watching WALL-E and sobbing.
— Louis Peitzman (@LouisPeitzman) February 13, 2019
Planetary scientist and Mars specialist Tanya Harrison spent Tuesday evening at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as NASA attempted to send some last commands to the rover. “There was silence. There were tears. There were hugs. There were memories and laughs shared,” she said.
These tributes show how involved us humans can become with our robotic explorers. We identify with their courage, trials, triumphs and, ultimately, their deaths.
It’s hard to accept that we have to close the window Oppy opened on Mars, but our universe is all the wider and wilder thanks to the rover’s beautiful life.
NASA turns 60: The space agency has taken humanity farther than anyone else, and it has plans to go further.
Taking It to Extremes: Mix insane situations — erupting volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, 30-foot waves — with everyday tech. Here’s what happens.