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Media We Love: Good Night Oppy

Good Night Oppy

NASA has sent five robot rovers to Mars. And this is the story of the twin robot sisters, Spirit and Opportunity. The movie Good Night Oppy describes Spirit as troublesome and Opportunity as Little Miss Perfect. And if that seems like anthropomorphizing … well, in many ways, Opportunity did seem almost alive. She surely was a robot that touched people’s hearts. You can currently watch the movie in select theaters. And it’ll be available on Amazon Prime Video on November 23.

The twin rovers were meant to last for 90 days, or sols. A day on Mars, or a sol, is about 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth. Amazingly, the rovers outlasted their 90-day lifespans by years. Both rovers launched in 2003, and Spirit roamed Mars for 6 years before succumbing to the elements.

Meanwhile, Opportunity lasted for 15 years. She explored crater after crater. She eventually reached Endeavour Crater, finding evidence for ancient water on the Red Planet. And then … she died.

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The people behind the rovers

The story of Oppy – the affectionate nickname for Opportunity – is the story of the people who loved her. The engineers and scientists who breathed life into her consistently spoke of her in human terms. Her parts that broke down over the years were her right leg and shoulder, and they describe Oppy as having arthritis and memory problems. They would wake her up in the morning by playing songs. So – especially if you were there to witness the months-long effort to revive Oppy in 2018, after a deep, dark and long-lasting dust storm hit the rover’s location – you might also shed a tear, sharing some of the loss the team felt when Oppy stopped responding.

Opportunity lasted 5,352 sols. But before she died, the team came up with a way to celebrate her 5,000th sol. It had been years since they had last seen all of Opportunity back on Earth, so they instructed the robot to take a series of pictures, creating a selfie on Mars.

Falling in love with Oppy

Good Night Oppy will make you fall in love, not only with a robot, but also with the scientists and engineers who loved her. We see Steven Squyres, principal investigator, go from brown hair to gray. We watch a young girl go from a high-school intern on launch day and to eventually joining the program. One woman describes watching her grandmother get Alzheimer’s as Oppy’s memory also begins to go. And when Oppy’s mission ends, the main characters in her life move from the control room to watching at home, as the newest rover launches to the red planet and a new family of scientists and engineers moves in to care for its offspring on Mars.

Good Night Oppy: Poster showing Opportunity rover on Mars. It is moving over a dune, there is a starry sky in the background.
Movie poster for Good Night, Oppy, via IMDb.

Bottom line: Good Night Oppy recounts the story of the twin sisters Martian rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. They outlasted their 90-day missions by surviving 6 and 15 years, respectively.

Read more: See the Opportunity rover’s last image

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