Blogs | 12.9.2022
Good Night Oppy Touches Hearts This Holiday Season
Challenger Center, in partnership with Blue Origin’s Club for the Future and Amazon Prime Video, hosted a series of exclusive screenings of the documentary Good Night Oppy in local Challenger Learning Center communities across the country. But this wasn’t just an educational experience; the film showcased the power of teamwork, perseverance, and love.
Good Night Oppy tells the inspiring true story of Opportunity, a rover that was sent to Mars for a 90-day mission but ended up surviving for 15 years. The film follows Opportunity’s groundbreaking journey on Mars and the remarkable bond forged between a robot and her humans millions of miles away—sparking emotion and bringing tears to everyone’s eyes!
Watching intently, viewers waited with bated breath to see what happened to Oppy and its twin rover, Spirit. At one point, you could hear a pin drop when Oppy said, “My battery is low, and it is getting dark.” But it wasn’t all tear-jerkers; catchy music produced a lot of foot-tapping, sing-a-longs, and smiles from audience members too.
The documentary screenings weren’t just educational (and positively emotional) either. The events also gave hundreds of students, families, and educators an opportunity to participate in pre-screening activities with their fellow community members:
A local robotics team—Crown Point High School Robodogs Team 2171—engaged with audience members at Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana by showing off their award-winning robot and talking to local students about getting involved with robotics.
Families arrived early to try hands-on activity stations run by the Challenger Learning Center of Maine (left) team, including:
- taking “core samples” of Mars bars and discussing the geology of Mars,
- using foam cups to compare bones and the effects of gravity on Earth compared to Mars,
- decorating Club for the Future postcards to send to space, and
- “test driving” Mars rovers through a floor maze at a Sphero rover station.
Talking With the Experts
Participants also engaged in post-screening conversations with space industry experts:
Dr. Ray Arvidson (left), Deputy Director of the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, spoke to the audience at Challenger Learning Center of St. Louis about what the rovers were sent to Mars to discover—a great complement to the engineering focus of the film.
Tara Ruttley, PhD, is the current chief scientist for the Orbital Reef at Blue Origin and was previously the associate chief scientist for Microgravity Research at NASA. She talked to participants at Challenger Learning Center at the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center about space missions—past, present, and future. Everyone had a fantastic time meeting Dr. Ruttley and fellow space enthusiasts!
At the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling University screening, Dr. Chuck Wood spoke about his time with NASA and all the space items that are now orbiting Mars, including which country they came from and their purpose for being in space.
At the screening held by Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee, a local chapter for the American Institute for Chemical Engineers set up stations for space trivia and constructed cardboard rovers. Renowned FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Robotics Professor, Dr. Christian Hubicki, held a Q&A after the film.
Most of the audience members at Challenger Learning Center at the Scobee Education Center, San Antonio College, were amateur astronomers and scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI)—an extremely knowledgeable audience! Dr. Charity Phillips-Lander, a research astrobiologist from SWRI, joined as a special guest.
Nine schools from five school districts attended the screening at Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky. Dr. Tracie Prater, PhD, a mechanical engineer working with space habitat development at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, joined the event through Zoom and provided some perspective on Mars and the Mars rovers. The event was made even more special knowing that John Goodlette, a lead engineer on NASA’s Viking Project, is from Hazard, Kentucky . . . his mention in the film sparked a lot of pride in this small community!
Connect with Oppy This Holiday Season
Viewers left the Good Night Oppy screenings with full hearts and were inspired to continue learning about Oppy and the NASA crew that was featured in the film. One young student was overheard telling his parents, “That’s what I want to be doing when I graduate!” While another viewer shared, “The movie really revealed the emotional depth that was formed from the creation of the rovers and showed, in great detail, the groundbreaking discoveries they made over their life on Mars.”