Good Night, Oppy shares the human heart of robotic Mars missions

Good Night, Oppy shares the human heart of robotic Mars missions

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In the opening scenes of the new movie “Good Night, Oppy,” the Opportunity rover cruises through Perseverance Valley on Mars in June 2018, as B-52s’ “Roam” fills the mission control room.

The upbeat tune was the rover’s wake-up song, which was played at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In the same way that NASA has used a song to wake up astronauts every day they’ve spent in space since the 1960s, the Opportunity rover team started their daily shift with a song that set the mood for Opie’s flight.

But the A storm is brewing on the horizon Everything changed.

The documentary “Good Night, Oppy” follows the Mars Opportunity rover, which has turned what NASA expected from a 90-day mission into 15 years of exploration on the Red Planet. attributed to him: Courtesy of Prime Video

Obi has weathered dust storms before, along with solar flares, sand traps, cosmic rays, close collisions, and harsh Martian winters for more than a decade while exploring the Red Planet. However, in 2018, her team was able to identify signs of “gray hair” — a failing memory, the urge to nap, and arthritis in the robotic arm.

Expedition team members still consider it their lucky rover, even though it is indomitable. After all, Oppy was built for a 90-day mission, but she exceeded all expectations and outlived her twin sister, Spirit, by about seven years.

This storm was different. quickly grew in size, Encircling the planet and blocking the sun.
The The last message of the solar powered buggy To Mission Control translate to this: “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”

This chapter is just the beginning with “Good Night, Oppy,” available to stream on Amazon Prime on November 23. The film follows the journey of the wandering twins and the people they dedicate their lives to from idea to last post.

The film highlights the hope of space exploration and captures the emotional connection between humans and the robotic ambassadors who explore on our behalf.

Director Ryan White weaves together decades of footage pulled from NASA vaults with photorealistic effects, animation from Industrial Light & Magic, the iconic visual effects company founded by George Lucas, and novelization by actress Angela Bassett. The documentary places the viewer on Mars with the two rovers as they cruise either side of the Red Planet.

“Although the spacecraft was robotic, the mission was human,” said Doug Ellison, lead of the camera engineering team for JPL’s Curiosity Rover, who also worked on the Opportunity mission.

Twin robots

When NASA engineers built and tested the two rovers in the early 2000s, they quickly realized that the robots couldn’t be more different. Spirit was the violent drama queen while Opportunity was the overachiever, according to team members. Spirit was tenacious and struggled through the same tests as Opportunity. Their figures looked as human as their design.

The rover is designed to search for past evidence of water on Mars. Both were launched in 2003 inside protective shells aboard Delta rockets and fell in 2004 on opposite sides of the Red Planet. The first 90 days of the dual mission have come and gone, and the JPL team knew the two rovers were ready for more adventure.

Together, Spirit and Opportunity’s discoveries will rewrite the textbooks with new information about the Red Planet and its constellations Interesting, watery past —and both got into all sorts of trouble between finds, like getting stuck in sand and veering off the sides of steep craters.

The bonds between team members and the two rovers quickly deepened, despite the vast distance between Earth and Mars — made even more difficult when Spirit’s voyage ended in 2011 and Opportunity fell silent in 2018. There was hope for both rovers to “wake up” to the bitter end.

“The way (Opportunity’s) mission ended was very surprising,” Ellison told CNN. “We had one week on a rover very happy and well, and then this dust storm came and took everything away. … You could call it a death in the family. It was so sudden, it was so painful. To revisit it was kind of an emotional reward.”

Thousands of people have worked on every aspect of the rover, bringing it back to life and keeping it rolling around on Mars for longer than anyone expected.

“What we’re really saying goodbye to is the teamwork focused through this bot and working with a whole bunch of amazing people,” Ellison said.

“Oppy” revival

The creative process behind the film began in March 2020, on the eve of the pandemic.

White, who considers himself a “space geek”, grew up in the 1980s and kept track of space missions. He said the project became “a lifesaver for him, working on something so joyful during such a difficult time”.

Industrial Light & Magic is on a mission to bring Mars to life in a way the movies have never seen before. After it was shot, members of the ILM team worked with NASA to confirm that what they described was accurate for the rover experiment.

The end result is as close as viewers can get to standing on Mars, with camera angles that look like they were shot on the Red Planet itself.

“ILM really taught us that you can do it within the constraints of reality: through the lens, through the lighting, through the angle on the robot’s cameras, whose eyes were,” White said.

A member of the mission team inspects the NASA rover.  The team becomes romantically attached to the robotic explorer of Mars and its twin, Spirit.

A member of the mission team inspects the NASA rover. The team becomes romantically attached to the robotic explorer of Mars and its twin, Spirit. attributed to him: Courtesy of Prime Video

The Spirit and Obi missions are over, but Mars exploration continues today with next-generation rovers such as Mars Curiosity of and persistence. The latter was launched in July 2020 as White was working on the documentary.

The first Martian samples collected by Perseverance will make their way to Earth in the 2030s, and may contain evidence of life — if it exists on the Red Planet.

“All of these missions, as a rhythm, are a prelude to sending humans out there to continue that adventure in the future,” Ellison said. “I hope the next generation of engineers and explorers, people like my little 4-year-old daughter, can see documentaries like this and go, ‘I want to do some of that too. I want to be part of an adventure like this. “

Add to waiting list: More on Mars

Watch: “The Mars Generation” (2017)

Exploring the curriculum at NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, aspiring teen astronauts pursue dreams of one day traveling to Mars. Experts also weigh in on NASA’s history, future, and practicality of colonizing another planet, revealing that the first human trip to Mars is closer than you think.

Watch: “The Martian” (2015)

Based on the novel by Andy Weir, this upbeat sci-fi thriller directed by Ridley Scott follows a stranded astronaut who must find clever ways to survive on the barren planet Mars with few supplies and no way to contact Earth.

Watch: “The Stretch” (2015-2022)

Set in a future in which humanity has colonized much of the solar system, the six-season television series (and a series of nine novels by James S. Currie) follows a hardened detective and rogue ship captain who investigate the case of a missing young woman. They race across the planets, uncovering secrets about their unusual living conditions.

Read: “The Martian Wanderer: Spirit, Opportunity, and Exploration of the Red Planet” (2005)

Stephen Squires, mission manager for the Mars Exploration Rover project, shares the story behind the rover’s 2004 landing. With numerous setbacks in the mission’s early start, and a race against time to finish building the rover before launch, Squires gives readers a front row seat and his expert opinions on the first results for mobile vehicles.

Watch: Apollo 11: First Steps Edition (2019)

Released 50 years after NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, this documentary breaks down the final moments of preparation in 1969 before the first humans landed on the moon. With the current Artemis missions set to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in the next decade, NASA hopes that more lunar discovery will eventually lead to the first humans to set foot on Mars, making the findings from the historic Apollo 11 mission even more so. ever important.

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