‘Good Night Oppy’ Director Ryan White On The Humans At NASA Who Made A Robot On Mars So Beloved — Contenders Documentary
04.12.2022 - 23:43
In the new documentary Good Night Oppy, the Mars Opportunity rover becomes the scrappy robot that could: an instrument platform that trundles across a rusty landscape millions of miles away, searching for alien life signs, and outlasts its own projected existence by almost 15 years.
But none of the affection that audiences feel for this unsinkable machine would exist if not for Opportunity’s people — “our human-being characters,” as director Ryan White fondly called the celebrated mission’s engineers, scientists and programmers. Without them, “it is just a box of bolts and wires,” he said at Deadline’s Contenders Documentary event that also featured the film’s Oscar-winning sound designer, Mark Mangini, and Emmy-winning composer, Blake Neely.
RELATED: The Contenders Documentary – Deadline’s Full Coverage
In theaters now in limited release and streaming on Prime Video, the film from Amblin Entertainment and Amazon Studios is narrated by Angela Bassett and was the standout in November at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards, netting five trophies including the top honor, Gold for Best Documentary Feature.
White called Opportunity — “Oppy” to its creators and caretakers — a stand-in for all the adventurers at NASA who would love to go to Mars themselves. “But since they can’t, she is our little intrepid, bold explorer out there doing the things we can’t do ourselves” he said, “And so we project our own aspirations, our own emotions, our own fears, onto the rovers.”
NASA launched Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, in 2003 and landed them months later on opposite sides of Mars in order to survey, photograph and poke at their surroundings. Oppy folows both. Spirit got stuck in sand in 2009 and stopped communicating with