Don’t give up on opportunity
Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 2, 2015
Eleven years ago a rover was sent to the red planet in the hopes of gathering scientific data.
Originally planned to run for three months, Opportunity is still touring the terrain and collecting data, but appears to be suffering from old age.
Of the seven flash drives onboard one is having some issues retaining data. NASA uploaded a patch to bypass the failing module, but the rover appears to be facing a new problem; budget cuts.
After landing 10 years ago, the rover has toured Mars extensively, traveling a total of 29 miles. That’s the largest distance traveled of any manmade device on a planet other than Earth.
In spite of the achievement, NASA is considering cutting funding that would continue operation of the rover.
This creates a mixed bag of opinions. On one hand the rover has completed its mission and then some. Also, it’s lasted longer than its twin Spirit, which got stuck in some soft soil and was later decommissioned in 2011.
Additionally, there’s another rover traversing the surface of Mars, Curiosity.
It made sense to stop trying to use Spirit when communications with the rover continuously failed. But the thing is, Opportunity is still operational.
While it may make fiscal sense to abandon operations of Opportunity in favor of exploring Jupiter’s moon Europa as NASA proposes, there is an alternative to just giving up completely on Opportunity; that would be letting a private or commercial third party take over its operations. Think of it as an opportunity for Opportunity to continue to conduct scientific research at no cost to NASA.
There may be some resistance due to the fact that NASA holds all of their cards close to the vest, but that issue could be solved with a contractual agreement, a representative to oversee the operation or outsourcing its operation to a trusted NASA contractor.
The point is, there’s no sense in giving up on a perfectly good Opportunity.