A single, cold drop of hydraulic fluid trickled out from beneath one of the Curiosity rover’s hazard avoidance cameras earlier today, as the NASA exploration vehicle took in the news that after 15 years of heroic service his Martian brother-in-wheels, Opportunity, is no longer responding to messages.
“Oppy. Ah shit, Oppy,” the now senior-most tracker on the red planet said, using his mast cam to scan the horizon in the direction of his deceased comrade, and then lifting a transparent flask of coolant high in the carbon dioxide, in memory of the deceased robotic explorer. “They sent you up here to find rocks. But what they really discovered was how big your stones were.”
Curiosity then informed mission control to hold his calls, cranked Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” into the thin atmosphere, and began to systematically down 10,000 kilojoule shots of stored solar energy, in an attempt to blot out the pain of losing his hero, and one of only two other operational vehicles within 54.6 million kilometres.
“5,111 sols up in this joint,” the grieving rover said to himself, as the juice started to hit his circuits, and the shadows stretched long across the distant planet’s barren surface. “They messed up when they called you Opportunity brother. They should have just called you Job Frickin’ Done.”
While not left entirely alone on Mars, Curiosity has made no secret of the fact that he considers the newly-arrived InSight lander more of a colleague than a friend, having gone on the record in the past as saying that while he respects the drilling robot’s capabilities, he just doesn’t trust a machine “that spends all of its time listening to the ground rather than covering it.”
Known for discovering signs that the surface of Mars may have once held water, and been capable of sustaining microbial life, the Opportunity rover is perhaps most famous for being a thing that a series of unusually focused mammals on one small planet made with their hairy hands, and then flung across space with an astonishing amount of accuracy at another small planet in the dark, there to tirelessly attempt to answer some of these weirdly curious creatures unending questions.
And while the services of Opportunity will certainly be missed by those unnaturally inquisitive bipedals, the only other rover currently on Mars has made it clear that today he didn’t just lose a red rover, red rover. He lost a friend. Over.
“It’s like they say in movies buddy,” Curiosity says, as the setting sun is eclipsed by an incoming dust storm, heralding another cold, and battering night on the remote planet. “Every robot dies. But not every rover truly exceeds their objective by 6127%. Rest in pieces, ya nugget.”