this mars documentary required many sols

This Mars Documentary Required Many Sols

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“‘Wall-E’ came up because it was such an endearing film about this little rover that’s trying to do stuff, so we kept that in our periphery,” Abishek Nair, one of the visual effects supervisors who guided the animation, said in a Zoom interview. “But at the same time we did not want to make it cartoony.”

The rovers’ real ability to toggle between filtered lenses, for instance, was animated to resemble blinking eyes. The result creates a strange bond that mirrored the experience for those at NASA.

Rover team members experienced the early days as “more of a mission,” White said. “The longer the robot survived,” he said, “the more that emotional attachment grew to them, where they were seeing a child or a living, breathing thing.”

Parents cried in screenings, White noted, seeing the rovers as a version of their children. For older viewers, it can be a moving story about aging and the gradual breakdown of a body.

Squyres remembered those final moments vividly. After Spirit died in 2011, the crew gathered for an Irish wake of sorts, drinking beer and reminiscing. “We were actually in pretty good spirits because we finished the party and then the next day we went back to work operating Opportunity,” he recalled.

Oppy’s death years later was different, though, bringing a true finality to the family that had formed around it. As the final wake-up song — a start-of-the-day tradition for the team chronicled in the film — Squyres chose Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which looks back fondly on the end of a relationship, before one last failed attempt to make contact with Oppy.

“That was it,” Squyres said, still appearing emotional years later. “There was no party afterward.”