“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” was the last message NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover sent to scientists eight months ago before it went dark, however it was officially declared dead earlier today.
Something in that last message resounded within me as I read the news on Twitter this morning, and I have spent the afternoon and evening trying to find my words to explain why and the best I could come up with is the following.
The first and depressing reason is that although this rover might not be flesh, it was a man made creation meant to relay information and its point of view to other humans and maybe I sympathize with the idea of the loneliness that I would feel completing that type of task, which I know may not make sense to a neurotypical person when I explain why it sometimes feels lonely to speak to others.
Like a robot, my actions sometimes feel like they are controlled manually rather than unconsciously because for me social interactions tend to feel like an extraneous exercise that requires a lot of conscious effort and awareness.
After the exhaustion that comes from hiding my idiosyncrasies, and struggling to to understand the nuances that come along with the social aspects of my life, my battery gets low and my thoughts sometimes get dark.
However, I am not so depressed to feel utter hopelessness at the end of a Mars rover mission. On the other hand, the fact that this rover outlived its predicted lifespan knocked at the door of my long forsaken childhood curiosity.
As a small kid, I remember being terrified and fascinated by the concept of infinity. My small brain could not comprehend how something could something go on forever. Where does forever begin and where does it end?
I also remember being comforted by a teacher after crying in school when we learned about the absence of gravity in outer space because I was scared that someday my friends and family would float away into absolute nothingness.
And yet, as scared as I was of the infinite, I was just as scared of its opposite: the finite. Specifically, and like everyone else, I feared life’s final boundary, which of course is death.
As a child life just seemed too short for all the possibilities that it rendered. I must’ve been about 8 years old when I told my sister that some day I wanted to open every single door in front of every single building in the world just to see what was behind it. It sounds really stupid, I know, but that’s what I wanted to do with my life back then. Explore every stupid mundane possibility.
But it’s that childliness that lives within the scientists at NASA that allowed them to create these machines that explore the possibilities beyond the mundane and that is exciting!
Because what the hell are we supposed to do with this universe given to us besides just exist alongside it and within it? The chaos of the universe is ours to make with what we can and I should continue to explore it while I can despite my emotional and social disabilities.
And although I can sometimes struggle to make meaningful friendships and relationships, they make this journey worth it. Because none of us were given a choice when we magically woke up on earth in little decaying human bodies and yet we all have to experience this so why not rejoice in the bonds we’ve made after finding each other in this whole crazy ass universe.