"My battery is low and it is getting dark."
That's what I felt when I heard that NASA The opportunity engine mission ended after 15 years. Oppy, the biker, was officially dead and had sent off one last alarming communication to Earth before finding his last resting place in Perseverance Valley, on the surface of Mars.
The rover has been around since I was a kid. I remember my father showing me 3D photos of the rocky Martian surface. I was fascinated by the promise of NASA's most ambitious rover mission to date and by the fact that we could potentially confirm that water, and maybe even life, once existed there -low. It's one of my favorite scientific memories.
So when I discovered that NASA could finally call the mission, I was sad. And like any science journalist, I've tweeted about it.
As of February 16, the thread had received about 173,000 "likes", 40,900 retweets and 17 million impressions (regardless of the value of this statistic).
I was clearly not alone in my grief.
Celebrities have tweeted about it.
The memes were made.
(Shoutout to all the people who make Cowboy Bebop references!)
YouTube videos have been posted.
And people even made t-shirts.
And it all started with this tweet
The last message they received was basically: "My battery is low and it is getting dark." They hoped that the wind season would clear the dust from the solar panels (if that was the problem). Since then, they have told him over and over again that they knew it … 3 /
– Jacob Margolis (@JacobMargolis) February 12, 2019
In the days that followed, the sentence was separated from the thread's context and overtook Twitter.
People started talking about it as if they were exactly the last words spoken by the motorcyclist. the NY Daily News reported as a fact.
JPL contacted me to let me know that they were inundated with questions about the final message. And it seemed that most people understood the context of the tweet, many did not understand it.
SO, OPPY REALLY INDICATED: "MY BATTERY IS LOW AND IT'S FALLING"?
As Simon Simon of NPR said, it's a "poetic translation. "
My tweet is an interpretation of what two scientists from the Mars Exploration Mission have said.
Assistant Project Scientist Abigail Fraeman talked about what it was when they realized the June dust storm was going to be particularly bad, and the life of this Oppy was in danger. They told him to conserve energy.
"It's hard, because you know it's coming … but you can not do anything to stop it," Fraeman said.
"On Thursday, we knew it was bad, and on Friday we knew it was really bad, but we could not do anything other than look in. And then it was Sunday, we received a communication from the rover and we were shocked, "she says. "Basically, it meant we were out of electricity, and this was the last time we heard about it."
John Callas, the project leader, presented another touching detail about the final communication with Oppy: "He also told us that the sky was incredibly dark, so much so that the sun does not go out. , by night."
"We were hoping the rover could get out, let the rover go down, and then when the storm cleared, the rover would recover," he said. "It did not happen, at least it did not tell us it happened, so we do not know."
Although less appealing than seven words on a t-shirt, Oppy's final message at headquarters is still impressive.
This rover was built more than fifteen years ago. It has traveled 283 million kilometers and lasted much longer than predicted by scientists. And even when the end was near, he held his foot and sent out a last precious message before disappearing in the Martian dust storm.
Seeing such a clear example of excellence is a source of inspiration.
And the fact that the robot is super cute does not hurt either.