Luckily, my commute to work is only 12 minutes, with a six-mile travel distance. But until my wife and I bought our current house, I was having to drive 26 miles from home to job, taking around 35-40 minutes with no traffic. A lot of people travel much farther and deal with heavier traffic than I do. And I think most of us agree it’s one of the most frustrating non-life-threatening problems out there. Well, let’s all thank our billions of lucky stars that we aren’t in the passenger seat on any of the Rovers that have ever traveled in space. You can only ironically listen to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for so long before wanting to smash your face into the windshield. And yes, I’m aware the Rovers have neither seats nor windshields, nor eight-track players.
Karl Tate of SPACE.com has created an infographic laying out just how far all the Rovers have roved, both on Mars and on the Moon. If I wasn’t familiar with some of this data already, I would have thought hundreds and hundreds of miles would have been traveled, based on absolutely nothing but a childhood of RC cars. Match your predictions with the graphic below.
The winner, the Soviet-built Lunokhod 2, cleared the greatest distance in 1973 with a mere 23 miles. I’ve driven more miles than that on a weekly basis just to browse at Best Buy without buying anything. In second place is the Apollo 17 Lunar Rover with 22.3 from the year before. I understand why modern Rovers haven’t surpassed these guys yet, even though Opportunity is relatively right on the cusp of taking the top spot, and it’s surprising to see how well all of those earlier efforts went, given the limited lifespan expected of these things.
Keep an eye out for newcomer Curiosity, of course, which has gone .04 miles in approximately the amount of time it would take me to run it without stopping to gasp for oxygen. Unless I’m running on Mars. Then my eyes would pop out of my skull and my screams would take on an Austrian accent.