Back in 2004, two rovers landed separately on Mars.
Named Spirit and Opportunity, their mission was to just simply explore and do science on Mars. Originally slated to last 90 days, they chugged on a whole lot longer than that. Spirit’s mission concluded in 2010 after getting stuck in sand, but Opportunity just kept on going!
The rover made some major discoveries about Mars’s past and present, as well as its potential to harbor life. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab drove Opportunity around for nearly 15 years!
The rover kept chugging along until a massive planet-wide dust storm last summer stopped Opportunity in its tracks. The solar panels that it ran on couldn’t get enough power because of all the dust. On June 10th 2018 it sent its last transmission, telling Earth “my batteries are low and it is getting dark.”
The team in mission control sent more than 835 messages to Opportunity since June but hadn’t received a response.
On Tuesday night, Opportunity’s team gathered together and sent one final message in the form of a song: Billie Holliday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You”. The message read: I'll find you in the morning sun, and when the night is new, I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.
Opportunity was declared dead on Martian day 5,352 of its 90-day mission.
In the next few decades, humans will likely begin to inhabit the red planet. At some moment in the future, a person in a spacesuit will walk up to the sand-covered rover and reflect on this small piece of technology that helped pave the way for interplanetary space travel.