Spirit, the little NASA rover robot that got stuck in the sands of Mars after a long, arduous mission and yet soldiered on collecting data until harsh winters silenced its digital voice, has unfortunately shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to the resting place of other good electrical helpmates of humanity. Read about Spirit’s great accomplishments on NASA’s website here: NASA – NASAs Spirit Rover Completes Mission on Mars.
I am sad for the loss of Spirit even though I tried to introduce this post with a bit of Red Dwarf. Sometimes it is best to find the humor in the loss of someone or something as a salve. Spirit and its companion Opportunity demonstrated the tenacity of partially autonomous, artificial beings.
Back in 1996, I was very happy to learn about Spirit and Opportunity’s fore-bearers, Sojourner and Pathfinder. NASA gave a presentation in the aeronautical engineering building across Ferst Drive from Skiles. Besides the wonderful lecture and enthusiasm given by the presenters whose names I have long since forgot, each Georgia Tech student got to take home a CD-ROM with Quicktime movies and information about the Pathfinder project. I watched those movies many times on my old Apple PowerMacintosh 8500/120, which my parents had just given me to help with school. Through my 15″ Apple monitor, I imagined that I was on Mars with my robot companions.
Perhaps Spirit and Opportunity wanted to show up their ancestors who had outlived their mission by a couple of months by outliving their expected lifespans by years. Opportunity continues on the distant red planet of Mars, and I hope that it isn’t too saddened by the loss of its companion. I hope that it is resilient and continues its mission of exploration on humanity’s behalf on a desolate and lonely planet.