“Good Night Oppy” is a feel-good documentary about the Mars rovers and the people who kept them rolling.

good night oppyis a warm and surprisingly human documentary about two robots, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity.

But the movie is really about the people, the scientists and engineers who dreamed up the mission, built and tested the twin rovers, and worked to keep them running longer than anyone dreamed.

Spirit and Opportunity. they were launched to opposite sides of Mars in 2003 to explore the surface and geology for evidence of water in the past. Each delivered answers to scientists during the three-month main mission that yes, Mars was much, much wetter.

The rovers moved on, as did the team. That 90-sol (92.5 Earth-days) primary mission turned into a 2,269-sol journey for Spirit, while its robotic twin sister Opportunity lasted 5,111, or just over 15 Earth years.

That’s a bit like getting 2 million miles off your family car.

JPL engineers solve problem after problem, first in the ground during testing and then back in the ground by placing exact copies of the rovers in the fine martial soil simulator, about the consistency of cake flour, l axel-de depth, to test ideas on how to get the stuck rover moving again.

Ultimately, it was punishing Martian weather — specifically a planet-wide dust storm that turned day into night — that made it impossible for the solar panels to generate enough power to keep the rover warm enough to survive.

But the team kept trying to wake her up with songs ranging from Wham (Wake Up Before You Go-Go) to Iron Maiden (The Trouper) and The Beatles (Here Comes the Sun).

The scientists and engineers who spend their careers building a remarkably strong bond with the rovers, anthropomorphizing them always referring to each one as “she” and not “it.”

“Yes, he’s just a robot, but he becomes a member of the family,” Doug Elison describes.

At first, these new family members stayed awake at all hours while the team stayed on Mars time, arriving at the JPL campus about 40 minutes later each day to wake up the rovers and begin their day of science gathering. .

The story ends with an arthritic (a failing joint in the robotic arm), a limp (a wheel that will no longer move and must be dragged), and forgetful (scientific data from the previous day is lost each time the robot is put into sleep mode) declaring “my battery is low and it’s getting dark” as the dust storm looms.

It’s just a cable box, right? But you end up with a cute looking robot that has a face.”

The eyes on that face are a pair of cameras that have been used over the years to take panoramic color images of the Martian surface, Sun, and sky. These cameras are placed at the same distance and height as a human geologist standing on Mars, allowing for 3D images that really give you the feeling of being there.

I’ve known Doug for almost a decade, and his personal story is also one of perseverance (no pun intended).

Doug started outside of NASA using the images from Spirit and Opportunity freely available to the public. He produced animations and other visualizations of his own design that show what Mars looks like using data.

NASA invited him to work with them in 2010.

Today he works on the successor mission Curiosity, leading the team that works with scientists to plan the observation of clouds, dust swirls and other atmospheric phenomena and the team that drives the rovers.plan

The documentary Good Night Oppy (2022) chronicles features footage from the Mars Exploration Rovers themselves, as well as immersive views created by Industrial Light and Magic (Amazon Studios)

The film not only includes images of the rovers themselves and animations produced by NASA, but also immerses audiences with views of the surface of Mars created by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

“Every location covered in the film, whether it’s the landing site of each of the rovers or the craters they visit, is actually based on actual altitude data and built to scale.” ILM VFX supervisor Ivan Busquets described to the Hollywood Reporter.

Busquets’s colleagues describe creating the scene in which the Spirit rover spins its wheels in the fine Martian soil, with the consistency of talcum powder or cake flour, as one of the biggest challenges in their careers.

good night oppy is available to stream starting Wednesday, November 23 on Amazon Prime Video. Just in time for the family to see Thanksgiving,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *