NASA’s Last Message To Opportunity Rover Is Seriously Heartbreaking
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover was officially declared dead on Wednesday (February 13), 15 years after it first landed on the planet.
In the days which followed, the rover’s final words to the space agency were reported, with many interpreting them as a heartbreaking end to its journey.
But it’s now been revealed what NASA’s last words to Opportunity were – and they’re even more heartbreaking than the rover’s.
The six-wheeled vehicle – which was built to last just 90 days – helped gather critical evidence for NASA and had weathered all sorts of obstacles, up until eight months ago.
The New York Times reports this was the last time Opportunity was heard from, with flight controllers attempting to make contact several times since to no avail.
Opportunity – which was solar powered – had been exploring the Perseverance Valley at the time of its ‘death’. A violent dust storm struck Mars, blacking out the sky and stopping Opportunity from getting any sunlight on its panels.
The final image taken of the resilient rover shows its mechanical arm hard at work:
Trapped in the darkness for months, Opportunity was covered with grit and dust. NASA scientists hoped this layer would clear once the windy season came.
However, this didn’t happen; once the sky cleared, the space agency still didn’t hear anything from the rover and it was believed its internal clock had become too badly scrambled to function.
Science journalist Jacob Margolis reported the final heartbreaking message Opportunity sent back to NASA on Twitter:
My battery is low and it’s getting dark.
The news of Opportunity’s downfall was broken at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, by head of NASA’s science missions, Thomas Zurbuchen.
As reported by TIME, project manager John Callas said:
This is a hard day. Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point.
It was also revealed how NASA tried to communicate with the rover, trying over one thousand times to send recovery commands but to no avail.
Among those messages, NASA tried to wake up Opportunity with songs such as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, and Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.
Their final message to the rover though reportedly brought tears to team members’ eyes, with TIME reporting they sent one last wake-up song – Billie Holiday’s I’ll Be Seeing You.
With lyrics such as ‘I’ll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new / I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you’, it’s no surprise the NASA team were in tears.
However, there was still no response from space and Opportunity was pronounced dead on Wednesday.
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