Opportunity: One of the Greats


SpaceFlight Insider

Abigail McCoy, Secretary

Over the past fifteen years the United States has landed four successful long-term land rovers on the surface of Mars to collect data about other planets in our solar system. NASA has named each one to represent the collective hope of mankind. Spirit landed in 2004 and lasted six years before experiencing equipment failure and sent its last message on March 22, 2010. The most recent lander, The INSIGHT and the Curiosity rover, landed 2012, is still in operation with approximately 2330 sols, sols being the standardized measure of day of life outside of Earth.

NASA’s proudest rover was Opportunity, which landed in 2004, it was the longest operational Mars rover until June 2018 when a sandstorm on the surface of the red planet hit. The “death” of this rover hit mankind the hardest, and it is a true example of society’s compassion and love for things that are unable to love them in return. Opportunity, nicknamed Oppy by the public following its journey, was the Mars rover that many older teens and young adults grew up with. “Oppy” was active for 14 years, but its original mission deadline was only 90 days, so it surpassed the odds and made modern history as the current longest operational Mars rover.

Over 800 attempts were made to regain contact with Opportunity, but each were in vain as the rover was no longer operational. On February 13, 2019, after six months of attempted contact, NASA officially ended Opportunity’s mission.

The public was devastated. #ripoppy was trending on Twitter for several days after the official NASA statement. Many created their own interpretation on Opportunity’s last message to scientists in order to humanize it. “My battery is low and it is getting dark” has spread across the nation as Oppy’s last words but in fact it was just a readout of its light intake and battery life. Scientists decided to interpret this as one last cry for help before shutting down, and many weeped for the loss of this rover. It was just in fact a robot with no artificial intelligence, but many created stories about its time on the red planet and people mourned it as if it was a lost pet or a friend. Opportunity was, in a way, a friend of mankind. They raised it, and one day they will bring it home to be memorialized.

Opportunity will go down in history as one of the greatest pioneering land rovers ever to leave Earth’s atmosphere and will be used as an example to future generations as a sign of hope.