A life of adventure and exploration.
A life of travel and learning.
A life well-lived.
I don’t know about you, but those are the things to which I aspire. And when someone passes who has achieved those things? That is a life to be celebrated. A life to be appreciated…although not without a certain hint of envy.
So, a toast, then, to MER-B…better known as the Mars rover Opportunity.
“Wait, what?” you scream. “You’re leaving a drink on the bar to a freaking robot?!”
Yes. Yes, I am.
Astro-nerds everywhere know by now that the little rover has finally died. Now, many of the news stories I saw about Oppy’s death were pretty damned shallow, not to mention inaccurate. Some were even faintly mocking: “NASA’s $400 million dollar probe killed by dust!” and shit like that.
Let’s get some facts, shall we?
Opportunity, and its twin sibling Spirit, were both designed to travel a few thousand feet, to live a “life” of just a shade over 90 Earth days. Those were the official goals when they landed on Mars in 2004 (pay attention, now, there’ll be a quiz on this later!).
Spirit (MER-A) died first, in 2009. Well over five years later, for anyone not counting!
Opportunity didn’t die until 2018 – a life of over FOURTEEN YEARS!!
Of all the rovers the various space agencies have landed on Mars and the Moon — including Oppy’s big brother Curiosity — not one has traveled farther than Opportunity. The little robot-who-could ran a literal marathon; over those fourteen years, it travelled 28 miles.
That’s 28 miles in terrain that would be considered harsh and destructive even here on Earth, let alone in a place where the nearest mechanic is well over six months away, where commands have to be sent minutes and hours in advance due to light’s travel time. That’s traveling with nothing more than solar panels for power…and still spending the bulk of each and every day performing science. Testing and sampling … digging and analyzing … and photographing. Oh hell yeah, Opportunity photographed the shit out of Mars.
A few random shots, in collage form:
And, just to bring a tear to your eye, I’m adding the very last photo Oppy’s took as death finally came:
So raise a toast, folks, for the little robot who never gave up, never surrendered*. Raise a glass, also, to those engineers and designers and planners who turned a tiny budget — in space-probe terms — and turned it into 14 years of absolutely killer science.
*Ahem…of course I had to have a “Galaxy Quest” reference! That movie still cracks me up…