#GoodnightOppy

“My battery is low and it is getting dark” made nerds everywhere get a bit weepy last month. However, as Scott Manley explained in his video, Opportunity never actually sent a message with those words. The data in transmissions NASA received showed that Opportunity’s batteries were indeed low (the solar panels were only generating 22 W-hrs a day) and the sky was getting dark . . .

. . . On the 13th of February 2019 NASA declared Opportunity's mission as complete. Considering it was originally a 90 sol mission (92 Earth days) back in 2004, he's not had a bad run! In fact Opportunity managed to travel over 45 km during his lifetime. I know I'm referring to Opportunity as 'he', as if Opportunity were sentient, when he is in fact a robot. Similarly we talk about NASA's loss of communication with Opportunity, and the fact Opportunity has probably long run out of energy, as a death, like it were a person who had died. But I can't bring myself to say 'just a robot'. He has sent so many amazing images that have inspired people. There is a clip of Mars' blue sunset which came from Opportunity. Not only is it stunning and fuels the imagination about living on Mars, but it has educational value. It is fantastic for demonstrating Rayleigh Scattering and teaching why the sky on Earth is blue, for example. The mission wasn't just about pretty pictures and sunsets though; Opportunity sent information about the geology and climate of Mars. If you're interested in the details, there is a Wikipedia article on Opportunity's mission timeline.

I don't see how there's anything wrong with anthropomorphising a robot. Anthropomorphism is a useful teaching tool and how can you not humanise these adorable rovers? Some people take it little far, such as the guy who decided to get a tattoo with the poetic last words of Opportunity. Sadly, he (or the tattoo artist) seems to think all rovers look the same — as it's actually an image of Curiosity!

I'll leave you with the blue sunset: