"My battery is low and it's getting dark."
That's how I felt when I heard that NASA's Opportunity rover mission was coming to an end after 15 years. That Oppy, the rover, was officially dead, and that it had sent back one last alarming communication to Earth before finding its final resting place in the Perseverance Valley on the surface of Mars
The rover's been around since I was a kid. I remember my dad showing me 3D photos of the rocky martian surface. I was enraptured by the promise of NASA's most ambitious rover mission yet and that we could potentially confirm that water, maybe even life, once existed there. It's one of my favorite science memories.
So, when I found out that NASA could finally call the mission, I was sad. And like any science reporter, I tweeted about it.
As of Feb. 1
My memories were made
Celebrity tweeted about it.
The last one of the Cowboy Bebop references! the message they received was basically "My battery is low and it's getting dark." They hoped that the windy season would clear the dust off the solar panels (if that was the problem). Since then they've been pinging her again and again, every way they knew … 3 /
– Jacob Margolis (@JacobMargolis) February 12, 2019
In the days following, the phrase separated from the context of the thread and made its way beyond Twitter
People started talking about it as if they were the exact last words that the rover said. The NY Daily News reported it as a fact.
JPL contacted me to let me know that they were inundated with questions about the final message.
As NPR's Scott Simon said, it's a lot of people who know the context in the tweets, many did not
SO, DID OPPY ACTUALLY SAY, "MY BATTERY IS LOW AND IT'S GETTING DARK"
and " poetic translation ."
My tweet is an interpretation of what two scientists from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission told me
Deputy Project Scientist Abigail Fraeman when they realized the June dust storm was going to be particularly bad, and that Oppy's life was in danger.
"It's hard, because you know it's coming … but there's nothing you can do to stop it," said Fraeman
"By Thursday, we knew that it was bad. And then by Friday, we knew it was really bad, but there was nothing we could do but watch. And then it was Sunday, we actually got a communication from the rover and we were shocked, "she said. "
John Callas, the project manager, offered another poignant detail about the final communication with Oppy:" It's also told us the skies "
" We were hopeful that the rover could ride it out, that the rover would hunker down, and then when the storm cleared, the rover would charge back up, "he said. "
While not as catchy as seven words on a T-shirt, Oppy's the final message back to the headquarters is still impressive.
This rover was built over fifteen years ago, traveled over 283 million miles, and lasted a lot longer than scientists anticipated.
Seeing such a clear example of excellence is inspiring
And the fact that the robot was super