Thank You Opportunity
The Mars rover Opportunity was recently declared ‘dead’. With the end of its fifteen year mission, many have been turning their eyes to Mars. The attention gathered by Opportunity has been from very surface information: the length of its mission, its last words, and the fact that it is dead. But instead we should be celebrating the life and accomplishments of the beloved rover.
Opportunity did not begin its journey alone. It had a twin rover named Spirit that was also deployed in 2003, landing just twenty days before Opportunity. Sadly, Spirit journeyed for six years, less than half the time of Opportunity.
The mission to Mars in search for geographical information and proof of prior livable conditions was to last only ninety days. The three month mission turned into a fifteen year mission, lasting sixty times longer than expected. Because of this, Opportunity has the record for longest mission held by any rover. The 384 pound rover also holds the record for most distance driven on another planet with over twenty-eight miles.
The Life of Opportunity
Opportunity helped scientists learn much about the past and present of Mars. During its fifteen year mission it took many pictures using a variety of different cameras. This rover took over 200,000 pictures and fifteen panoramic pictures.
Very early in its mission, Opportunity found evidence that Mars once had hydrated conditions that would have supported microbial life. It continued to make similar discoveries as it analyzed rock samples. One of these previously wet areas was named Endeavor Crater. It was concluded that this crater once resembled a pond or even a lake.
Like any mission, Opportunity faced many obstacles. One of the most infamous difficulties being stuck in Purgatory Dune for many weeks. Due to the extreme conditions on Mars, the little rover had to face difficult weather. Mars has many dust storms, but two proved to be adversaries for Opportunity. One in 2007 was overcomed, but the dust storm in 2018 lead to the rover’s death.
The Death of Opportunity
The beginning of the end for Opportunity was in June of 2018. After an extreme dust storm, Opportunity sustained much damage. It is most likely that the dust storm covered the solar panels, slowly draining the life from Opportunity. The last communication between the rover and the control center was on June 10.
The team behind Opportunity spent eight months doing everything they could to regain communication with the rover. They sent over eight hundred messages, none of them returned. Their efforts ultimately failed when they received one last transmission from Opportunity. The exact words have been up for debate. The closest translation of what Opportunity said has been released as “my battery is low and it is getting dark”.
The final location of Opportunity is the most fitting location on Mars, Perseverance Valley. The rover overcame many obstacles and accomplished much.
As a final farewell to Opportunity, NASA sent a final message to Opportunity. If the message was ever received, we will never know. The message was in form of a song. This song was “I’ll Be Seeing You”, sung by Billie Holiday.
The final words send to Opportunity were a fitting message, “I’ll find you in the morning sun. And when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon and I’ll be seeing you”.