Opportunity realized and lost: an ode to a friend in space

NASA’s Opportunity rover is now considered permanently out of commission. Officials attribute this death to a dust storm that ended communication with the rover in the summer of 2018.

Opportunity landed on Mars 15 years ago in 2004 and was expected to last only 90 days. Astoundingly the rover sustained and survived for 5,111 days for more than 1.5 decades. It is immortalized by a selfie it took to mark its 5000th Martian day. It has set a number of records on its 28-mile journey across Mars and has lasted longer by far more than any other Mars rover in history.

Six months ago, Opportunity encountered one of the most ferocious Martian sandstorms that blocked its solar panels. This meant the rover couldn’t draw power perpetually from the sun anymore, and could only rely on its power cell to run.

“My battery is low and it is getting dark.”

That was the last message from Opportunity. It was heard on 10th June, 2018. Opportunity went dark a long time ago, but NASA were waiting on it, hoping it would resurface. But now, an emotional NASA stuff has informed that they sent over a thousand messages to Opportunity trying to get it to respond. They considered Opportunity as a family member and had given it the nickname of Oppy.

Artwork by: @isalleyokay and @teh_doodler

The weather on Mars is expected to face an extended cold spell which would destroy the powering components on Opportunity. In the end, Opportunity lived up to the title bestowed upon it, providing mankind with the opportunity to uncover a few more secrets of the vast reaches of space. Its mission completed, Opportunity will rest at the edge of Perseverance Valley.

See you, space cowboy.

China lands a probe on the far side of the moon, what it implies

A Chinese space probe, Chang’e 4, has become the first ever spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon. The probe touched down at 2:26 am GMT on Thursday. It made its final descent from an elliptical orbit 15 kilometres above the moon’s surface. An image tweeted by CCTV showed the first shot of the far side of the moon.

What is far side of the moon?

The far side of the moon never faces earth, due to the moon’s rotation.

Although sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “dark side of the moon,” it receives just as much sunlight as its Earth-facing side.

The mission aims to explore the Aitken basin, thought to form during a gigantic collision during an early period in the moon’s history. This area is free from radio frequencies and thus lunar rovers cannot contact ground control directly. China launched a dedicated satellite orbiting the moon earlier this year to solve this problem.

Some of the objectives include conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observing whether plants can grow in the low-gravity environment, and exploring the availability of water and other resources at the poles.

The mission also aims to study how solar winds interact with the moon surface.

Chinese space dominance?

A stronger space nation?

“China is on the road to becoming a strong space nation. And this marks one of the milestone events of building a strong space nation,”

Said Wu Weiren, chief designer for the lunar mission.

According to Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the landing might motivate the Americans to step up their space efforts.

“I imagine we will see an announcement the Chinese do intend to send Taikonauts to the moon by 2030. China has been very clear in its understanding of this. They have compared the moon to the South China Sea and Taiwan, and asteroids to the East China Sea. They’re making a very clear geopolitical comparison with what’s happening with space and we need to pay attention to that.

Malcolm Davis