Had something thrown on me and couldn’t find the time to post so far, so I’m late with this and everything that was to say has already been said a whole lot better in a whole lot of other places, but I still have to at least make a little post now that it’s official that Opportunity‘s mission has come to an end. Of course, it was quite clear that this was coming for quite some time, the conditions worsening and therefore the chances of the rover communicating again if it hadn’t done so when they were as good as they’re going to get for a long time to come being almost zero, but I must say I was a bit surprised to see that announcement when I did, less than three weeks after the one about a new strategy meant to attempt to elicit a response. Was very much aware that those were the final efforts and the chances of success were extremely low, but did expect them to try for another month or two since they did decide to try some new things. Then again, also expected them to want to reach over 1000 recovery commands sent and then stop, which I gather did happen.
So… Goodbye, little rover. You left a large mark, and on top of the discoveries made, you inspired people and likely helped usher forward other current and future missions, and at least somewhat lessened the poor state of space exploration. We’re nowhere near where we should be, in this field and so many others, the difference between what could and likely should be done and what is being done constantly increasing, but it would be even worse without you and your success and unbelievable longevity. I can only hope that you will get the recognition you deserve in the future, and that when humans will set foot on Mars, if not even before, thanks to other robotic explorers, you will be retrieved, cleaned, fixed up as much as possible without changing who you are, and enjoy a proper and honorable retirement.
And yes, I’m quite aware I’m talking about, and to, a machine, and should in fact thank the team for all these things, but I did grow to rather care for that little rover… And there is also the fact that she used solar power while Curiosity and the Mars 2020 rover use a nuclear generator, even though it has been proven, mainly thanks to Opportunity, that solar power is completely feasible on Mars, without any of the obvious risks and problems brought by nuclear energy. And if people from Opportunity’s team work, have worked or will work on the teams of those other rovers, I’d see it as tainting her legacy in one important way, so I’d just rather not even think of them… And maybe look more towards the planned European and Chinese rovers, as potential proper successors of Opportunity.