It’s okay to cry for Opportunity. When she landed on Mars almost fifteen years ago, she was expected to live for 90 days. I wonder if there was a point soon after she blitzed that expectation that NASA engineers stopped expecting the minimum result from Oppy.
Because at every turn, Oppy exceeded expectations. She went so far, she learned so much. She covered twenty-eight miles! On a world no human has set foot on! She was our pathfinder, our point-man, boldly going where we could not yet go.
Oppy was built with hope. And dreams. Programmed with the human spirit of exploration, and she carried that torch so brightly for so long. Fourteen years, and two hundred and seventy days longer than anyone had any right to expect her to.
It’s okay to cry over Oppy. She was born to the scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab, but we adopted her. She was our lil robot, scurrying slowly around Mars trying to learn just as much as she could.
Fifteen years is a long time, though. And even though she was a trooper, she was starting to show her age. She’d been through several storms that had almost killed her. The edges of her solar panels were cracked and bent. She showed the wear and tear of every one of those Sols spent on the red planet.
But she did us so proud.
It’s such a peculiar thing, to explain to people that some machines have personalities. But they do. There’s quantifiable behavior, programmed and machined into a device and it behaves accordingly. But there’s an X factor, something unplanned and unexpected, something that gives life to the machine.
Oppy had that life. Curiosity still does.
No one needs to explain why we care so much for Oppy. And now that she lost the final battle with the storms of Mars, it’s okay to feel sad at her demise.
Just remember. She lasted so much longer than she had any right to. And she did so much more than we could have ever dared to hope she would.
She’s earned her rest. And she knows how proud of her we are.
Pour one out for our little Opportunity. Remember her well.
Rest easy, Opportunity. You did good.