“Good Night Oppy” draws viewers in by humanizing Opportunity (Oppy), a robot rover whose expected 90-day sojourn in Mars somehow extended to an astonishing 15 years. The documentary explores the bond between Oppy and her human team of engineers and scientists millions of miles away.
Identical twin rovers (Spirit and Opportunity), each with her own personality traits, were sent to Mars in 2003. Back on Planet Earth, their creators/parental figures are shown watching eagerly as their “babies” take their first halting steps into the future. The latest robot rover on Mars, Perseverance, is now following in their wheel tracks.
Imagine the nail-biting moments these engineer/scientists endured back home, watching their progeny endure so many life-threatening (but maybe not for robot rovers) crises like debilitating solar fires, stuck wheels, etc.
Oppy-the over-achieving robot
While the planet Mars (known as the red planet) does not appear to be capable of habitation, scientists are eager to find traces of water there. Mars is extremely cold, being 142 million miles from the sun, and the only movement we see besides the cute rovers is dust and solar clouds. But it’s fascinating to learn that photos of Oppy’s adventures were continually displayed back at NASA thanks to the over-achieving robot’s stubborn refusal to quit. Like that energizer bunny, she just keeps moving and filming what “she” sees.
The Mars landscape photos in Good Night Oppy have been recreated by CGI so those of us watching the documentary aren’t actually seeing the photos like those seen by the NASA team. The only real documentary footage is that taken of the scientists and engineers on the NASA project.
The documentary is written and directed by Ryan White, and has a limited theatrical release Nov. 4 (including one at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas). It runs one hour and 45 minutes, and is distributed by Amazon Studios. Good Night Oppy will start streaming on Amazon Prime Nov. 23, where it will no doubt bring many families together for a movie night over the Thanksgiving holidays. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment was a co-producer on the documentary.
If you have a budding STEM student at home, I strongly encourage you to take them to see Good Night Oppy—or plan a family movie night when it starts streaming on Amazon Prime. Who knows, you may get just as involved as they do!