Opportunity Mars Rover, Please Phone Home

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Oppy at Solander Point in August 2013

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars fifteen Earth calendar years ago today. It drove more than 45 km across the Red Planet’s cold desert landscape and worked fine until 10 June last year. A planetwide dust storm then covered the rover’s solar panels with dirt, cutting off its power supply, and it hasn’t been heard from since. Strong winds may one day remove that dust and allow Oppy to phone home again.

Either way, 14½ years of operation and the longest trek any off-planet vehicle has ever made are epochal achievements. Huge kudos to the Mars Exploration Rover team! And let’s not forget the Spirit rover that operated on Mars for a very respectable 6 Earth years, or the Curiosity rover that has so far been active for 6½ and is going strong, or the Mars 2020 rover whose launch is planned for July or August next year.

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6 thoughts on “Opportunity Mars Rover, Please Phone Home

  1. It’s a bit of a shame that we have become a bit blase about putting robots on Mars. The technology required to lift a worthwhile payload out of Earth’s gravity well, lob it accurately over millions of km, land it accurately and safely and then operate it productively for years is utterly astonishing. And yet – we’ve done it time and again!
    I realise that even the greatest of miracles become passe if they’re repeated often enough, but this still blows my mind. It also raises the question – if greed and stupidity don’t bring us down in the meantime, what greatness are we, as a species capable of in the future?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel very unenthusiastic about plans by various people to engage in mining and heavy industry on the moon, and I don’t see a point in establishing a human colony on Mars. Exploration is fine, exploitation is not OK in my book. We’ve made a mess of things on earth, so now we want to export that mess? We’ve already filled near-earth space with junk to the point where it’s a major problem, Elon Musk has put one of his shitty cars into orbit around Mars (for what? – to satisfy his outsized ego?); there needs to be some binding international agreements to prevent people from just fucking everything up like they always do.

    Like

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