Last June, the Mars Rover, Opportunity, sent its last message home.
“My battery is low and it is getting dark” … and was never heard from again.
It has affected me in a way I couldn’t have imagined when the little rover was first sent off on its mission.
It has affected me because I feel a great affinity for that rover.
Let me explain …
I watched a documentary on Opportunity about the time that it was nearing the end of its service. What I saw amazed me.
This little extension of humanity was supposed to last ninety days on the surface of Mars.
“My battery is low and it is getting dark” was received fifteen years after it arrived on the red planet.
How many times?
How often do we start out to do something and run up against obstacles that should stop us?
And once we are “zoned in” how often do we refuse to give up.
That was what inspired me about Opportunity.
I watched, amazed …
When it was done sending information about the place where it landed it was sent on a months’ long journey that ended up lasting over 5,000 days longer than its 92-day mission.
The little rover got stuck, for days, and struggled free under the guidance of its drivers.
Winter wasn’t on
When Opportunity got to the end of its summer on Mars it needed to find a place to weather the winter.
It could stand the elements physically, but its battery would die if it couldn’t get an adequate charge through its solar panels. It positioned itself on a south-facing slope and shut itself down as much as possible.
Yeah, sitting still for the winter would drive us crazy, I know, but that was what had to be done.
And come spring, the rover awoke and went on about its business like it was just another day.
And it did that … for 15,400 days, spending its winters catching the faintest of sunlight and its summers exposing the secrets of Mars’ history.
We all know …
… how easy it is to become attached to personified machines, especially in the movies. And once we’ve anthropomorphized an object it is easy to see ourselves in its characteristics.
I saw some of our best characteristics in the Opportunity rover. Determination, hyper-focus, ingenuity, they were all easily assigned to that rover.
Last June a dust storm caught up with the rover and it lost contact with us. With each passing day our hope of hearing from it again diminishes.
As NASA prepares to make its last attempt to awaken Opportunity I feel like we’ve lost one of our own.
I propose that we continue to be ourselves and to press on with our lives.
People seem to expect us to be normal, but in the same breath they say things that lead us to believe they are certain we cannot handle that.
I say, maybe we can’t handle normal, but we can be heroic. We can persevere when others would relent.
The Mars Rover may be lost. But we still have other opportunities.
I intend to grab every one I can.