For 15 years now, NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has been exploring the uncharted regions of the red planet. But in mid-2018, we stopped receiving transmissions from the rover, and began to fear it may have been finally been gone for good. On Wednesday afternoon, NASA will announce if its final attempt to contact the rover was successful or not. It's unlikely the space agency will hear anything back from the robot nearly 34 million miles away, and at that time they will announce the end of the mission. No one is taking it well, and we don't just mean scientists and engineers.
Missions end all the time, but the swan song for the little machine, affectionately called "Oppy," is hitting people around the world in a way few other robot demises do. It all has to do with the unlikely and incredible length of Opportunity's mission and its final message.
In a fantastic Twitter thread, science reporter Jacob Margolis explained the history of Oppy's amazing journey—which began when it landed on Mars in 2004 alongside its twin robot Spirit, whose own mission ended in 2010—and what went wrong for Opportunity on the red planet last June. (FYI: You might need a moment to gather yourself after reading the whole story.)
Sad news. Mars rover #Opportunity is probably done. Sometime tonight, a team @NASAJPL will make their final attempt to contact #Oppy. If they can't, they'll likely call the mission. Here's what happened... 1/ pic.twitter.com/oLgATexUHN
— Jacob Margolis (@JacobMargolis) February 12, 2019
A 90-day mission that lasted over 15 years and covered 28 miles across the beautiful barren surface of our celestial neighbor would be enough to make Oppy's fatal dust storm ending emotional, but it's Opportunity's last message that has turned this goodbye into something bigger. Margolis said its final note was basically, "My battery is low and it’s getting dark."
As you can imagine, a real life Wall-E death scene has hit many hard, and they've taken to Twitter to bid farewell to a machine who represents so much: hard work, perseverance, hope, dreaming big, a better future beyond our own world, and how everyone and everything in the universe must one day face its own ending. Since we're not alone in getting a little choked up over what Oppy represents, here are some of our favorite goodbyes, memorials, and hopeful messages to bid adieu to a special robot who gave more than we ever imagined.
I was fine. Then I saw this picture....
— D. Willbanks (@DCWillbanks) February 13, 2019
The way Jacob tells this story made me choke up a little. Maybe we humanize our droids too much, but they are the little ambassadors we send out into the universe, to see things we can’t, and to send the message “for a brief moment, we were here.” So long #Oppy, and thanks! https://t.co/BRcS3Ouiq8
— Thomas 🚀 SFF180 (@SFF180) February 13, 2019
Shedding a small tear at my desk for #Oppy today 😢
I'll never forget seeing this panorama image it took back in 2006 in the newspaper for the first time. It blew my mind then and it still does today ❤️ pic.twitter.com/W0AkjkM45W
— Becky Smethurst (@drbecky_) February 13, 2019
— Luke Walker (@lukewalkerbooks) February 13, 2019
— 👑Kass👑 (@kassras322) February 13, 2019
— ac (@seoltang_yoongi) February 13, 2019
— Jocelyn Rish (@JocelynRish) February 13, 2019
— leavinghope_ao3 (@Leavinghope_AO3) February 13, 2019
— ♡ Ashley misses Ella ♡ (@IconicMisheel) February 13, 2019
— Jefferson Ornithopter (@TimInTheIce) February 13, 2019
It's only a matter of time before we go pick #oppy up and put her in a prime spot in the very first Martian museum.
I think she deserves it, after working hard for over 55 times its designed lifespan.
Goodnight little rover, and see you soon. #goodnightoppy @MarsRovers https://t.co/9AklAFu2Tq
— Thomas Seymat (@tseymat) February 13, 2019
This cannot be easy for the people involved, and it's clearly emotional for everyone from scientists to enthusiasts who have followed #Oppy's journey, but to be honest whatever happens, I want to think of it from the perspective of all the joy and discovery the mission gave us ❤ https://t.co/ps6SHAPNJV
— Rose DF (@_Astro_Nerd_) February 12, 2019
Although I still have a hope, I go to sleep tonight with the realization that we're probably saying goodbye to my all-time favourite robot.
Not ashamed to say that makes me very sad.
I want to send a new rover to Endeavour Crater, to fix #Oppy and help carry on its mission. pic.twitter.com/MbYP2x25kd
— Scott Sutherland (🌦️🌩️🌀🌙🚀🛰️) (@ScottWx_TWN) February 13, 2019
— WitchyTwitchy Ⓥ (@witchytwitchytv) February 13, 2019
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Projected mission lifespan: 90 days.
Achieved lifespan: 15 years.
— Dan Mason (@ArcDan_) February 13, 2019
Farewell Opportunity. Your mission might be over, but we won't forget what you did.
Featured Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech