The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Mars rover Opportunity was originally designed to trundle only one kilometer (0.6 mile) on the surface of Mars. The probe landed on the red planet on January 2004, and its primary mission was completed by April 2004. But Opportunity has set a new record of driving 25 miles (40 km) on the Martian surface. It has been operating continuously for the last 10 years, looking for signs of alien life.
Opportunity continues to send data and pictures to NASA
Previously, the off-Earth roving distance record was held by Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 robot. The Lunokhod 2 rover landed on the moon in 1973, and drove 24.2 miles in just five months. NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas said in a statement that Opportunity has driven farther than any over vehicle on another world. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the rover was never designed to travel this distance.
Opportunity, along with its twin Spirit, landed on Mars in 2004. NASA lost contact with Spirit in 2010. But Opportunity is still in good health, regularly sending scientific data and pictures back to Earth. Scientists expect it to add more to its new driving accomplishment. Both rovers are solar-powered. Opportunity drove 147 feet (47 meters) on Sunday, July 27 to travel a total distance of 25.1 miles.
NASA honors the Soviet mission by naming a crater as ‘Lunokhod 2’
The rover has now reached along the western rim of Endeavor crater, NASA said. Opportunity traveled for seven years before reaching the Endeavor Crater in 2011. Since then, it’s been traveling at a speed of 0.18 km per hour, examining the rock outcrops on the crater’s rim. It has gathered evidence that less acidic water once flowed there compared to those examined at the rover’s landing site.
NASA scientists are hoping that Opportunity will soon travel the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) on its way to the next major investigation site dubbed “Marathon Valley.” In honor of Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover, NASA has named a 20 feet crater on Endeavor’s rim as “Lunokhod 2.”