The new documentary “Good Night Oppy,” arriving on Amazon Prime on Nov. 23, is garnering critical acclaim and seems destined to be a frontrunner for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards and Critic’s Choice Awards. The film is the inspirational true story of Opportunity, a rover that was sent to Mars for a 90-day mission but ended up surviving for 15 years. Through soundbites, video montages, and narration by Angela Basset as well as 4K visualization, the story which captured millions of hearts is once again on display.
Abigail Fraeman, who was 16 years old at the time she visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), grew up to work with robotics for the company as an adult. In this exclusive interview with Reel Faith’s DeWayne Hamby, she recounts her history with Opportunity and what lies ahead in the future of space exploration.
It was really cool to see your journey, how this whole story kind of touched your heart, and how you got involved.
I actually was able to be in the room with the science team and the engineering team when Opportunity landed on Mars. And I saw when the first images came down, and I was completely hooked, I wanted to know what we were looking at and what it told us about Mars’ past. I went off, I studied geology and physics in undergrad and then went to graduate school where I worked with the deputy project investigator of Opportunity. I got involved in actually operating her as a science team member, and then eventually made my way over to the Jet Propulsion Lab where I became the Deputy Project Scientist of Opportunity. And I served in that role for the last few years, until the end of the mission.
Can you describe a little bit of what it felt like when it was the end of Opportunity when it was finally “good night”?
Yeah, it was a really bittersweet time. On the one hand, we were all really sad to lose both the rover but also the team. You know, after AVI is mission ended, we all went off to our different projects and did different things. And that family kind of got split up. But it was also a time a bit of celebration. You know, this three-month mission lasted for 14 years. And so, there was a lot of joy and gratitude to be able to reflect back on everything we had learned and everything we’ve been able to do on essentially borrowed time.
What can you share some of the things you’re working on now? Or is it classified?
I love talking about what I’m doing now. I’m the Deputy Project Scientist for the Curiosity rover, which was the rover we sent after Spirit and Opportunity. We’re climbing this mountain on Mars, reading the layers in the mountain like you would the layers of the Grand Canyon, stepping through Martian time, and we’re still exploring, we’re still learning so many new things. And I still get to wake up every morning and see new places and new pictures. And it’s so thrilling.
Opportunity is a robot. You work with robots every day. But this is a story that captures people’s hearts. How does that happen? We’re not actually not watching a human being. but yet, there’s a lot of human elements in it.
It’s gonna sound a little corny, but there’s so much love into this rover It’s the love that we have for exploration and the passion we have for what we do. It’s the love the team members have for each other. And then it’s the love that we feel for this wonderful machine that is able to take us to places that we as humans aren’t able to go. And it’s not just the team, it’s everybody in the world has the ability to download the images that rovers like opportunity collected, and now curiosity and perseverance. All those images are posted online. And anyone can follow along and follow our rover guides.
“Good Night Oppy,” directed by Ryan White, will premiere on Amazon Prime on Nov. 23.