Sad news this week (although it’s seldom but sad), as NASA has officially given up hope on their Martian robotic rover Opportunity. The plucky little chap, known affectionately to its operators as Oppy, last made communication with earth in June last year just before being hit by a large dust storm and disappearing. It was hoped that Oppy would reappear once the dust cleared and sunlight once again reached its solar panels but alas, it was not to be. Around this time of year, temperatures on Mars plummet and, without its self-heating system online, it is unlikely Oppy will make it through the Martian winter. So, after a few final attempts to contact the rover, NASA has declared Opportunity dead.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
It’s not all bad news, the poor little robot may be all alone on Mars now, but it had a good run. When Opportunity, and its sister rover Spirit, arrived on the red planet in 2004, their designers thought they would probably function for about 90 days and travel a maximum of 1km from their landing site. In the end, Oppy lasted 14.5 years and travelled a grand total of 45km! This amazing achievement has given scientists some of the clearest pictures of Mars and detailed insight into the composition of the Martian surface. So, here’s to you Opportunity, you did not go gentle into that good night, sleep well dear robot.
However, its not just on Mars that opportunity has died, as Brexit continues to cause problems for Mrs May. After telling her they would support her deal to leave the EU providing she renegotiated the backstop clause (See column 03/02), the Commons this week voted against the PM’s strategy for this renegotiation. Many pro-Brexit MPs felt that the wording of the government’s proposal suggested the ruling out of a no-deal exit, something that they consider vital for leverage in negotiations with Europe.
Being a non-binding vote the PM is ignoring the Commons’ U-turn and is continuing with her previous negotiating position, but the vote does make her looks weaker. It tells the EU that she doesn’t have the backing of her own parliament and so they may be less likely to give her concessions. It is also the tenth major defeat the May government has faced in parliament; she’s really hanging on by her fingernails. While the Commons is very clear on what they don’t want when it comes to Brexit, what they do want is something more of a mystery. They know they don’t like the backstop and have told May to fix it but not how or with what. Reminds me of a song about a hole in a bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza etc…
Over in America, Donald the Builder is at it once again. And this time he’s saying ‘yes I CAN’ to Congress by requisitioning National Emergency funds for the construction of his border wall. After Congress refused to fund the wall, the Federal Government went into its longest-ever shutdown. Now it’s up a running again, instead of trying to work with the opposition on a solution that works for both parties like actual, real adults, Trump is forcing his policy into action through the back door. The multi-billion-dollar pot of the National Emergency Fund is kept aside by the federal government to help in times of serious national crisis, such as natural disaster, major industrial accident, famine, or epidemic. President Trump, however, is taking these funds to construct his vanity project on the Mexican border.
Trump is beginning to feel the pressure as he promised his voters this wall in 2016 and with re-election coming up next year, he needs to show progress on the project or risk losing his votes. However, you will also remember that it was during the campaign in 2016 that the President repeatedly stated that the bill for the wall would be footed by Mexico and that no money would be taken from the pockets of American taxpayers. Well not only is it now being paid for by American citizens, but it’s also coming straight out of the fund which is meant to keep them alive in times of adversity – let’s hope there are no tornadoes this year!
The President said "It's very simple... We want to stop criminals and gangs coming into our country.” But with several of his ex-staff, including his lawyer, facing criminal procedures, maybe he should consider a wall around the White House if he doesn’t want to be surrounded by law-breakers.