A few days ago, I saw a twitter thread about the last message from the Mars Rover Opportunity, and it nearly made me cry. I keep trying to figure out why it’s affecting me so much. I don’t consider myself a HUGE space or Mars enthusiast. I mean, I love speculative fiction, which is often set in space, but it’s not like I regularly read up on the latest science coming out of Mars research.
I blame NASA and their amazing use of social media and personification. I follow the Curiosity Rover on Twitter, as well as InSight, the robot that sent back the first sounds of Martian wind. Those twitter feeds are hilarious, informative, adorable, and heartwarming. They make you feel as if you’re actually on the surface of Mars, something that was only science fiction not that long ago.
So why am I so upset about the rover? It was only supposed to last for a few months, surprising everyone by lasting as long as it did. I think it’s probably the last transmission that was received.
“My battery is low and it’s getting dark”
I know, I KNOW that it’s a robot. It’s not programmed with a personality or some kind of advanced AI. I don’t get teary-eyed when my car’s gas light comes on, telling me to fuel up. I don’t get sad when my iPhone battery dies (WAY too often, I REALLY need to upgrade because my ancient iPhone is ALWAYS dying).
So why am I feeling for this little rover? I guess I’m just imagining it, the longest robot on another planet. It has been sending back images and information for so long that it feels like a part of Mars and a part of us. It’s like our first Martian friend, and now it’s dead. Maybe it’s that it looks like Wall-E, or that my kid has recently become so obsessed with becoming an astronaut and blasting off to outer space. It just feels like it’s hitting closer to home, no matter how far away Mars may be.
Yes, I know I’m being silly. I know I’m overreacting. But I’m still sad today for that little Mars rover that defied the odds. RIP Oppy, you’ve changed our world, and our understanding of the universe, forever.
It seems to me you lived your life
like a rover in the wind
never fading with the sunset
when the dust set in.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) February 13, 2019