In Memory of Opportunity

 
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In Memory of Opportunity

I had every intention of writing a longer article today. Unfortunately, life happens. There may or may not have been a minor plumbing incident in the middle of the night last night. There is definitely no water in the house until a plumber hopefully comes to fix something beyond my meager handyman skills later this afternoon. This is not what is traditionally considered fun.

So instead of talking about After Moses, I thought I would mention and pay tribute to the Opportunity Rover. Touching down in the Meridiana Planum region in late January of 2004, Opportunity spent the next 15 years exploring the surface of Mars. Space nerds fell in love with the little rover, because it lasted and accomplished far beyond what was hoped. Its original mission called for 90 days and 1000 meters of travel. Instead, it lasted sixty times longer and traveled 45 kilometers.

Unfortunately for the little rover that could, there was an extended dust-storm in Opportunity’s region of Mars last summer. Its solar panels were unable to get enough power, and NASA lost contact with the rover. Another rover launched a few years later, the Curiosity (who is alive and well) avoids this particular danger by carrying along a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. That fancy mouthful means that it carries along a tiny pellet of plutonium that, as it decays, generates heat and electricity for the probe. (And thus finds a use for one of the most difficult to deal with nuclear waste products) Opportunity had no such fancy power source, and after eight months of trying to reestablish contact, the Opportunity Mission has been declared officially over.

 
 

As a sentimental type myself, I suspect this was an emotional week for mission team members. After spending fifteen years on a single project, I can imagine it was a sad day at NASA. Humans are remarkably good an anthropomorphisizing beloved pieces of equipment. We feel our cars have personalities. I know NASA’s brave little explorer will be missed by its team! If you’re interested in reading more details on the Opportunity and its mission, check out this article at NASA. I recommend both it and the video I embedded above!

Coming back around to After Moses, this sad little bit of news from NASA has actually given me an idea for something to include in a later chapter. I won’t spoil the fun now, but a chapter on my outline might have gotten tweaked a bit to reflect NASA’s history with the red planet.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great week. Chapter 4 will be published next Friday on schedule.

Hopefully, my house will have running water by then…

Michael Kane

 
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