NASA’s Mars Rover Mission Ends After 15 Years- Why Every Human Being Should Care

Graphic of a person in an old-styled diving suit.

Just a day before Valentines Day, NASA came out with a press release that made my heart flutter more than any romantic relationship could. Mind you, I am aware that this is not a traditional healthcare blog topic, however, the news was far too important to ignore.

For the longest, I have been a space, astrophysics, and theoretical physics enthusiast. When I was younger, I was pretty certain that I would become an aerospace engineer for NASA and that I would eventually craft the world’s future exploratory planetary vehicles. Life did not turn out that way, but the passion is still there.

Enough rambling- here’s the news.

In March of 2004, NASA launched the 400 million dollar ‘Opportunity Rover’ into space from an air force station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Seven months later, the robotic rover reached its final destination on Mars and scientists’ closely watched its activities with the hope that it would endure a 90-day surface exploration. In 2018, NASA lost communication with Opportunity, after a sandstorm spread throughout the surface of the planet.

After enduring the extreme weather conditions of Mars for 5,111 days and finally failing to travel any longer, NASA scientists obtained 217,000 images, including 360-degree color panoramas. In addition, minerals were observed and analyzed that allowed NASA scientists to make this one revolutionary discovery: the red planet once retained water.

Water is the key element to honing the conditions that allow for life to propagate. Fresh mineral components that form in water were discovered at a Mars landing site. Within a crater, scientists believe that there is enough evidence to allege that it once carried water, just like a lake on Earth would.

This discovery is just the first step towards mankind’s greater understanding of what our planetary neighbor’s history looked like. If there was water on Mars, it is acceptable to assume that there was also life. If there was life, there are a frenzy of unanswered questions that could mirror the future of human life on Earth.

How advanced was life on the red planet? Was there intelligent life? What happened to the planet so that the conditions for life became unintelligible at first glance? Does the history of life on Mars parallel a path that Earth is on? Did life on Earth originate from our neighboring bodies?

So many questions…

With the advancement of robotic technology, NASA’s research initiatives to understand other planets continues to widen with opportunity- no pun intended. After all, NASA’s 2.5 billion dollar Curiosity rover is still roaming the red planet since landing in 2012.