In 2002, renowned poet Nikki Giovanni published Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (We’re Going to Mars). In her famous poem, Giovanni expressed,
“To successfully go to Mars and back you willNikki Giovanni – Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea
need a song … take some Billie Holiday for
the sad days…”
It looks like NASA listened to the famed poet. On February 12, 2019, NASA beamed Billie Holiday’s I’ll Be Seeing You, via the Deep Space Network, to the 15 year old rover, Opportunity, in hopes of waking up the Martian mission.
In the summer of 2018, Mars was ensconced by a planet wide dust storm which rendered the Opportunity rover signal less. The last signal scientists received from Opportunity was on June 10, 2018.
Since June, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have sent more than 835 recovery commands to the mission in an attempt to awaken it from its slumbering state. Late Tuesday night, scientists sent their final signal to Opportunity without a response from the rover.
Opportunity landed on Mars on July 7, 2003, along with its twin mission, Spirit (2004-2010), with the intent to serve on a 90-day mission, but what was intended to be a 90-day mission, turned into 15 years of discovery on the Red Planet. Opportunity, being the third robotic rover on Mars, impacted humanity’s understanding of Mars’ geological structure, history, and atmosphere.
On February 12, Opportunity received a fitting farewell from the NASA crew in the form of Billie Holiday’s I’ll Be Seeing You – taking advice from Nikki Giovanni’s Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea:
“take some Billie Holiday forNikki Giovanni – Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea
the sad days…”
The somber ballad and jazzy voice of Holiday were transmitted to the slumbering rover via the Deep Space Network with the closing lines of the song saying,
“I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you…”Billie Holiday – “I’ll Be Seeing You”
NASA’s choice of having Holiday sing the farewell to Opportunity was not only bittersweet, but it was also fitting, simply, due to the fact that Billie Holiday’s name is on the surface of Mars.
In February of 2007, we submitted Billie Holiday’s name towards Mars via the Visions of Mars DVD. On May 25, 2008, Billie Holiday’s name landed on the surface of Mars by way of the Phoenix Mars Lander’s Visions of Mars collection.
Today, Opportunity joins the likes of the retired Phoenix Mars Lander (2008-2010) as a mission whose success has led to a greater understanding of the Red Planet.