Opportunity: remembering the life of the lost Mars Rover

Jack Wassik, Sci/Tech Editor

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NASA officials declared that the Opportunity Rover, which landed on Mars back in 2003, is officially beyond communication and repair, or, as many on the internet have claimed, “dead.”

Many on social media have expressed heartache due to the distressing news that Opportunity said, “My battery is low and it’s getting dark,” although the rover never actually responded with this message.

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, landed on Mars back in January 2003 and were only expected to survive and transmit data back to NASA for 90 days. Spirit officially concluded its mission in 2010, seven years after it landed, and now both rovers have retired.

Although they both have ended their missions, they have provided scientists with an immense amount of information. Thanks to both Spirit and Opportunity, evidence has been found that, at one point, Mars was actually much wetter than previously thought. This evidence of water also brings up the possibility that an ancient Mars could have hosted microbial life.

Both Spirit and Opportunity were tasked to geologically survey the Martian crust to find evidence of water, which was discovered when they found the mineral hematite, which predominantly forms in aquatic environments. In some locations, Spirit was even able to find evidence of magnesium and iron carbonates that would have formed in a wet and warm environment. Furthermore, another mineral that was found was 90 percent pure silica which normally forms in hot springs on Earth. Hot springs are a known origin of microbial life.

Last June, Opportunity and NASA unfortunately lost communication. Ever since then, NASA has been trying to reach out to the lost rover, but after 835 failed messages to the Opportunity Rover, the NASA team declared that they had lost Opportunity on February 13.

However, with the end of one rover brings the promise of other rovers already on their way to Mars. Those yet to come will further explore space and make discoveries for new generations of scientists.