The use of robots in space exploration has been a boon for humanity. Our little mechanical friends help us travel and study areas currently inaccessible to humans. This year, we received the first awe-inspiring images of deep space from the James Webb telescope. What we thought we knew, based on the older Hubble telescope images, completely changed with the new pictures.
On Mars, our closest terrestrial neighbor, rovers have been diligently working to tell us more about the planet. The studies will not only help us to better understand the alien environments, but will also aid in our understanding of Earth’s formation in the galaxy. Sadly, one of those diligent little workers is signing off—for good. The InSight lander has officially said its goodbyes and all of our hearts are broken.
We will miss you, InSight
InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) flew to Mars in 2018. Since its arrival, it has taken selfies and studied the interior of the planet. NASA has used the data to determine that Mars, like Earth, does in fact have a molten core with crust layers. Over the past four years, InSight has monitored Mars-quakes and withstood many dust storms, but now its power is running low.
The heartbreaking tweet from InSight arrived on December 19 and read, “My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying … no, I am crying too. Something about the last line just plunged a dagger straight through my heart.
Robots taking over the world is one of the most well-known science-fiction tropes. It usually goes something like: humans put too much trust in the hands of robots or give them too much firepower and then the killing of all humans commences. I never put too much credence in this trope because it just seemed too far-fetched. Today, I changed my mind—but I don’t think robots will take over by force, and that’s because we love them too much. Between all the droids in Star Wars, Wall-E, and NASA robots like InSight, humans have come to love their robots almost as much as they love their animal friends. I realize a human wrote InSight’s last tweet, but I know all of us imagined the little robot saying it in a pixelated font.
Sleep well, InSight. You have earned your rest.
(featured image: NASA)
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