While NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover tends to get all the attention these days, an incoming Amblin Entertainment and Amazon Studios documentary gives us a chance to celebrate two other Mars rovers that paved the way for the current Perseverance mission.
Good Night Oppy, which lands on Prime Video on November 24 following a limited theatrical release on November 4, uses archival footage, computer animation, and talking heads to tell the story of Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit, two NASA vehicles that landed on the red planet in 2004.
A big part of what makes the story remarkable is the longevity of the two rover missions. NASA had planned 90-day programs for Opportunity and Spirit, but they ended up exploring the Martian surface for 15 years and 6 years, respectively.
A trailer for the documentary dropped this week. You can watch it below.
Directed by Ryan White (The Case Against 8, Ask Dr. Ruth), Good Night Oppy has so far received largely warm reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg, for example, called it “a lively celebration of unabashed nerdiness and enthusiastic problem-solving, the sort of movie that feels designed to attract Wall-E-loving children, who can then be shaped into the engineers and astrophysicists of the future.”
He described the documentary as “a glossy advertisement” for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NASA center that oversees the space agency’s Mars missions, adding: “White’s greatest asset is footage from different rover mission control and meeting rooms over two decades. Almost on a crisis-by-crisis basis, Good Night Oppy takes us through various catastrophes experienced by Spirit and Opportunity — impending sandstorms, dust-clogged sensors, inoperable machinery — and breaks down the stages of the process that allowed them to overcome each bout with adversity.”
Variety’s Peter Debruge also noted the movie’s potential to inspire the younger generation, calling Good Night Oppy an “ideal choice for classrooms: a practical demonstration of applied science, showing how designers work with engineers, and where human contributions to these fields can take us. Put another way, it’s an out-of-this-world example sure to get kids fired up about STEM.”
He added: “The meek may well inherit the earth, but it’s the nerds of tomorrow that will get us to Mars.”
During their Mars explorations, Opportunity and Sprit showed that the distant planet had once hosted wet and warm conditions that were potentially hospitable to life, discoveries that inspired today’s Perseverance team to search for evidence of ancient life there.
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