On a recent episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, he makes a joke about science and the recent loss of one of Mars rovers. He reported that due to financial restrictions, Mars rover Spirit, which has been stuck in soft ground due to motor failure for over a year, will no longer be communicated with or supported by the NASA headquarters. NASA has officially declared that Spirit is dead and “attempts to reestablish communications will be terminated.” This, at first, may appear to be sad news, but given the original expected lifespan of just 90 days, the rover has over achieved by over five years! To say the very least, there is no question that NASA got its money’s worth as it will be analyzing the data received from the rover for years to come.
Spirit wasn’t alone on this mission to Mars. Its twin, Opportunity, is still alive and functioning, though it too has suffered a few problems. While I tried to research why opportunity couldn’t have attempted to help its sister get out of the sand trap it was stuck it, I came across no such queries. While I suspect that they didn’t want Opportunity to suffer the same fate, I feel that some risks are worth taking. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the data about Mars’ surface and the properties of its sand and rocks will help rectify the rovers’ design to prevent the same impairments from occurring in future ones. Hopefully, NASA scientists will add features to the design such that one rover can rescue another from an impossible situations similar to the one that killed Spirit. In this way, Spirit will live on.
Having read several articles on the death of the rover, reading the comments brings positive light to the development. Someone commented “this huge success has to remind us that in term of space exploration, the 21st century will not be astronaut-centric.” I have to agree. The robots have come to perform just as well as humans in some respects and sending robots to get these jobs done is much cheaper and more efficient. Humans, as brilliant as some are, require a lot more than just a source of electricity to function; robots do not! They don’t need oxygen, food, water, rest, and most importantly, do not require a return plan of action. Humans have become a thing of the past; robots are the now and the future! I suggest we get with it. New Zealand’s comedy duo Flight of the Conchords realized this back in 2007 when they recorded “Robots,” aka “The Humans are Dead,” about a post-apocalyptic future where the robots have taken over the world. It’s worth checking it out if you’re bummed out about the loss of Mars Rover Spirit.
Written by: Jaymin Patel