Spirit: The Martian Story

“NASA sought evidence of life on Mars. That search begins with water, and the search for water begins with the study of the rocks and the soil. That was the historic mission of the rovers SPIRIT and OPPORTUNITY. This is SPIRIT’S story. The story of the SPIRIT and OPPORTUNITY Mars exploration rovers is an extraordinarily inspirational one. It resonates on a gut level to all of us working in and following the science and space community. The online comic XKCD: SPIRIT by Randall Monroe, succeeded in driving home just how meaningful this story was; becoming an instant internet meme shared by young and old alike. It has been the pleasure to translate that comic to film in order to share the inspiration of SPIRIT: A MARTIAN STORY, with the world!”

– Stimson Snead, Award-winning director  Follow on Instagram

ShareSpace Education, the K-12 education arm of the Aldrin Family Foundation, is proud to have contributed to the creation of Spirit: A Martian Story. Our vision is to inspire the next generation of space explorers by promoting interest in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. We believe there are incredible opportunities for children and fascinating stories to be told. The purpose of this film, Spirit: A Martian Story, is primarily inspiration. It was not intended as a documentary. This document identifies general areas in which the producer has taken artistic license for the purpose of increasing the level of interest by children. As Steve Squyres said, “The film is an adaptation. It is not a historic document of what happened.” If, after watching the film, children take advantage of the resources that have been identified to begin a study of Mars and its exploration, we will have accomplished our purpose.

Spirit is a machine constructed and sent to Mars by people. As such, Spirit does not have a personality. Spirit cannot talk and does not make faces with its camera eyes. It is interesting to note that people have long tradition of assigning human characteristics and personalities to machines. Speaking of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, John Callas, a project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “We have developed a strong emotional attachment to both of these rovers. They are just the cutest darn things out in the solar system and I think the public joins us in that. They are beautiful, accomplished little proxies out on the surface of Mars and we’re quite proud of them and have become quite attached to them.” He added, “There’s a sadness that we have to say goodbye to Spirit but we have to remember the great accomplishments and the blessings that we have received from having this rover operate for so long, six years. I imagine even Opportunity is a little bit sad to be alone and looking forward to the arrival of MSL.” The personal attributes of the Spirit rover exist in the hearts of the people who worked with Spirit.

The scenery in the film is an artist’s conception using images taken of Mars, but not actual photographs of the planetary surface and sky. This was done primarily to accommodate the film-making process. Factual information concerning Mars can be found on the NASA Science Mars Exploration Program web site at https://mars.nasa.gov/#red_planet/0

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team maintained regular contact with the Spirit rover and there was never a plan to return Spirit to Earth at the end of the mission. You can learn more about the mission of Spirit at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mission to Mars web site at https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mars-exploration-rover-spirit-mer-spirit/

Throughout the duration of the mission, the Spirit rover drove a total of 4.8 miles across the surface. The speed of the rover was around 50 feet per hour. A comparison of the distances rovers have traveled on the Moon and Mars is located at https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/6471/driving-distances-on-mars-and-the-moon/

The mission of Spirit lasted over 2,200 sols on Mars, well beyond the 90 sols it had been designed to operate. During that time, the team operating Spirit made many discoveries using the data received from the Spirit rover. A factual account of both the Spirit and Opportunity rover missions can be found in a book by Steve Squyres titled Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet.