scorecardFor 15 years, NASA engineers played the Opportunity rover a daily 'wake-up' song. Listen to the best songs from the Mars morning routine playlist.
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For 15 years, NASA engineers played the Opportunity rover a daily 'wake-up' song. Listen to the best songs from the Mars morning routine playlist.

Paola Rosa-Aquino   

For 15 years, NASA engineers played the Opportunity rover a daily 'wake-up' song. Listen to the best songs from the Mars morning routine playlist.
LifeScience3 min read
  • There's a new documentary about the Opportunity rover's life on Mars. "Good Night Oppy" is available for streaming November 23.
  • The film highlights how mission scientists created a wake-up playlist for the rover's morning routine.

To bid farewell to NASA's plucky Opportunity rover in 2018, mission staff at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided to play Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You."

A new documentary, "Good Night Oppy," available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video on November 23, tells the story of Opportunity — known affectionately as Oppy — which explored Mars for 15 years in search of signs of ancient water.

For more than a decade, engineers played a song for the rover each time it "woke up" and began its work analyzing rocks and soil on the red planet.

"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations," John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a 2019 press release upon losing communication with the rover. "But what I suppose I'll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth," he added.

Selecting a daily wake-up song for Opportunity's morning routine was a tradition that dated back to when the rover first landed in 2004.

From ABBA to George Michael, wake up with the stirring playlist NASA engineers made for the Opportunity Mars rover.

'So Happy Together' by The Turtles

Opportunity landed on the red planet three weeks after its twin rover, Spirit, landed there. Both rovers exceeded their expected lifetimes of 90 days exploring and gathering data on the planet's surface, according to NASA. Mission engineers played The Turtles' "So Happy Together" once Opportunity joined Spirit on Mars.

'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen

Mission engineers played Bruce Springteen's "Born to Run" the day the Opportunity rover rolled down its lander for the first time. "We knew it was going to be a good day," Matt Wallace, mission manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a news briefing that day. "The rover woke up fit and healthy to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run,' and it turned out to be a good choice."

Opportunity set a number of interplanetary driving records. According to NASA, it set a one-day Mars driving record in 2005, when it traveled 721 feet. It's the only rover to complete the equivalent of a marathon, covering 26.2 miles in 11 years.

'Dust In the Wind' by Kansas

Dust devils are towering plumes of dust that frequent the Martian surface, according to NASA. While dusty storms can silence rovers, dust devils can blow away some of the dust that blankets the rover's solar panels. Mission control played Kansas' "Dust In the Wind" and hoped for such a cleaning event.

For both Opportunity and Spirit, these dust clearings allowed the rovers to survive for years beyond their initial 90-day expiration dates.

'Wake Me Up Before You Go' by Wham!

The 1980s Wham! classic, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" is sure to stir anyone — including a robot geologist. At the start of one Martian day, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory played the lively George Michael hit in the control room as they turned the rover on, before embarking on that day's tasks.

'SOS' by ABBA

When mission engineers tried to reestablish communication with the rover, they appropriately played ABBA's "SOS."

In June 2018, a planet-wide dust storm blanketed its location, coating the solar panels that power it, according to NASA. The robot could hibernate through dust storms, which sometimes last months.

Months later, mission engineers hoped Opportunity would reboot once the weather cleared, as it had in the past. This time, it remained silent.




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