Space Grief

Marcia and I were channel surfing late last night at The Lodge at Turning Stone when I caught a news report that both Mars Rovers were in jeopardy of suffering their final shutdowns due to a nearly planet-wide dust storm on Mars. As a serious space nerd (see links at right), I find this heartbreaking. While the little robots have long outlived their initial 90-day warranties, they’ve been so robust, and so cool, as they’ve climbed things they weren’t meant to climb, gone down into places they weren’t meant to go, caught amazing shots of rocks, vistas, dust-devils and (most awe-inspiringly) sunsets. Rover Opportunity has spent months riding around Victoria Crater, and was poised to begin her descent into the bowl just as the storm began, but if the sky continues to darken, Opportunity may die of hunger (she’s solar-powered) before getting the chance to roll down into the crater. This makes me sad. I’ve gotten quite fond of clicking the “Mars Rovers” link to the right every so often to see what the little buggers are up to. I’d hate to think that Mars whipped them right on the cusp of a whole new phase of exploration, as the descent into the crater would provide Opportunity the chance to essentially go back into geological time by studying strata through the trip to the bottom of the basin. Here’s hoping the storm blows over, the wind clears the dust off of the Rovers’ solar panels, and both of them are able to keep rolling around the Martian plains, sending us more cool pictures as they do it. Fingers crossed.

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