Opportunity died two years ago after fifteen years of loyal service. The rover had been caught in a global storm and, being too tired, it had never been able to recover. But his story is not over.
Good night Oppy, is a documentary in production by Amazon Studios, Film 45, Amblin Television and Tripod Media. He will return to the story of Opportunity, one of the twins of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers mission. The film, directed by Ryan White, will also focus on the connection established between the robotic explorer and those who have led him for all these years.
“I grew up with films like ‘ET the alien’ and ‘Wall-E’, so making a documentary with similar themes of wonder and awe has been a real joy.”White said in a statement on Friday.
Launched in July 2003, a month after its twin Spirit, Opportunity landed in the Martian region of Meridiani Planum on January 24 of the following year. Designed to operate for 90 Martian (or soil) days and travel 1,100 meters, the rover has exceeded its life expectancy by sixty times, covering more than 45 kilometers in total. This is a record.
“My battery is low, and it is dark”
During his epic, Oppy searched for evidence of the presence of water at sites where conditions might once have been favorable for the emergence of Martian life. Two months after its arrival, the rover also stood out by revealing to its teams that the stratified outcrop on which it had landed was once meandered by currents of water rich in minerals.
Opportunity has not discovered evidence of past life on Mars, but it will have enabled the arrival of Curiosity, and by extension, that of Perseverance.
The rover unfortunately stopped communicating with its teams on June 10, 2018, after being trapped in a dust storm of incredible magnitude. His last message: “My battery is low, and it is dark”.
This kind of event, Opportunity had experienced it before, but the robot had been working “overtime” for a few years. He had fallen asleep that summer to let the storm pass, and NASA was hoping there would still be some juice left to wake him up. For several months, his teams naturally tried to reconnect with him, but without success. The mission was finally abandoned on February 12, 2019.
“Bring this heartwarming story to life”
The story of Good night Oppy, according to Amazon Studios, will be that of a robot traveling alone on another planet, but driven by the connection and the extreme bond formed between man and machine.
“It was impossible not to fall in love with the story of Opy – a story of hope, ambition, adventure and exceeding expectations”, noted Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, co-chairs of Amblin Television.
“The innovation and determination that made Opy’s journey possible, as well as the spirit of discovery that drives the JPL team, are a source of inspiration”, explains Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “As we celebrate their accomplishments, we are delighted to also be working with extremely talented filmmaker Ryan White and our friends at Amblin Television and Film 45 to bring this heartwarming story to life.”.
For this documentary, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which many now know thanks to the Perseverance rover, provided the film crews with unseen photos, also sharing the expertise and knowledge of the engineers in charge of the mission.