SCI/TECH: Mars just lost its biggest observer

by Jessica Spiers, Michaela Kreiter, Max Biesecker–

Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

After 15 years on the soil of another planet, the Mars rover Opportunity’s journey has finally come to an end. Launched on July, 7 2003 and reaching the red planet almost a year later, Opportunity has provided scientists here on Earth with a plethora of information regarding our nearest planetary neighbor, including evidence that the surface of Mars once hosted large bodies of water and even streams, an important step in mankind’s search for life in the universe.

Running for longer than expected, many of us here on Earth grew attached to the little rover over 30 million miles away. Grief over the shutdown of Opportunity was expressed through many social media platforms. Twitter served as the focal point for this wave of emotion, where a tweet by science reporter Jacob Margolis saying Opportunity’s last transmission was “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” quickly went viral. While this turned out to be false, the hashtag #thanksoppy was in fact trending on twitter.

While NASA hasn’t specified their next steps in potentially replacing the rover, the shutdown of Opportunity has prompted people to question mankind’s next steps towards Mars. There’s been talk of sending a human to Mars to further the discoveries, however as of now there is no plan set in stone yet.

Through the use of Opportunity we have expanded upon our understanding of what else might be out there. NASA along with other organizations will continue their research and enhance our knowledge of our place in the solar system.