Space and Science

Where are you, Opportunity rover?

CNN  — 

Dear Opportunity,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Have you heard that NASA is trying to reach you? Your friends on Earth, we just want to make sure you’re OK after that giant, planet-encircling storm. We guess there’s no Facebook Safety Check on Mars.

You see, we’re worried. Before, you were sending us cool images from Mars on the regular. Even though NASA designed you for a 90-day mission on Mars, you defied those expectations and kept chatting with us for 15 years.

But then the storm came. You’ve weathered storms before, like that one in 2007. You fell silent for a few days, and then the storm passed, and you carried on with your historic mission.

Of course, that wasn’t as intense. This time, a global dust storm completely blocked out the sun. We pictured you hunkering down, ready to ride it out.

June 10 was the last time we heard from you.

You did exactly what you needed to do, settling in for a long nap by shutting down. Unlike our pal the Curiosity rover, you’re a solar creature that needs to sunlight to do your best. You had historic energy lows. We get it – it was time for a rest.

You were stranded in the dark in Perseverance Valley, which you were happily exploring, trying to learn how it was created. You’ve always been a bit of a Martian history buff, and this was right up your alley.

The mission scientists kept trying to contact you each day after the silence fell. Days, weeks and even months have passed. They’ve increased their frequency in contacting you. First, it was just three times a week, not wanting to disturb your rest. You wouldn’t want to be awake for a monstrous dust storm, even in a place that sounds as pleasant as Perseverance Valley. That would be a waking nightmare, and rather lonely.

Now, they message you multiple times per day, but you’re still ghosting them. NASA even approved a strategy for them to listen out for you through January.

You should hear the nice things everyone says about you. Your team has such a strong bond with you. They want you to persevere. You have to! You’re in Perseverance Valley, for crying out loud.

It’s painfully similar to when we stopped hearing from your twin, Spirit. Spirit was so plucky, it defied that 90-day plan and operated until March 22, 2010. NASA tried to reach Spirit for over a year, and it held a formal farewell right around Memorial Day in 2011. It was beautiful. Do you remember?

It’s autumn here now. (It’s different there, we know.) People are sipping on PSLs and wearing corduroy again. Soon, you’ll be in the winter solstice there.

They think your solar panels are covered with dust, which won’t let you recharge. But there’s some good news! The team said you’ll be feeling breezy during the windy period from November to January, which could knock the dust right off your panels.

Maybe we’ll hear from you again then?

We’ve already had a glimpse of you, thanks to the HiRISE camera on the Reconnaissance Orbiter. You look great.

We aren’t the only ones writing, you know. People on Earth have been sending you postcards. And you don’t want that upstart Curiosity getting all of the good rovin’ in, now, would you? Just kidding. Curiosity has been worried and tweeting up a storm about you.

Sorry. No pun intended.

Meanwhile, NASA took over your Twitter account. They’re even using the hashtag #OppyPhoneHome.

And hey, you’re not the only one having issues. The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory are both in safe mode. Your buddy Curiosity had to switch over to its “second brain” so they could diagnose an issue with the first one.

You’ve missed out on some pretty great stuff. The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by a woman for the first time – which we thought you, as a female, would appreciate.

You’re hardy. We believe in you. Get well soon. Maybe we’ll chat in November.


Concerned Earthlings