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Mars Opportunity Rover Breaks 40-Year-Old Distance Record

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Opportunity RoverThese days the Mars Curiosity Rover is the one getting all of the attention and hype, glory hound that it is. However, its predecessor, NASA’s nine-year-old Opportunity Rover, just broke a distance record that is more than four decades old.

On Wednesday, May 15, Opportunity took a quick jaunt, a little stroll of 263 feet, as part of its normal day-to-day routine exploring the Endeavor crater on Mars. Only this particular day, those few feet put the grand total the rover has traveled at 22.22 miles. This means that it has now driven farther on a non-terrestrial surface than any vehicle in NASA history.

22.22 is .01 more than the previous record holder, the Apollo 17 lunar rover, driven across the Moon by Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in December of 1972.

Cernan said, “The record we established with a roving vehicle was made to be broken, and I’m excited and proud to be able to pass the torch to Opportunity.”

Part of a pair—along with its twin, Spirit, which was declared dead after a year—the golf cart-sized rover touched down on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. Originally given a three-month mission to search for signs that water once existed there, after the mission was complete, it just kept right on trucking. The record-breaking excursion came on Opportunity’s 3,309th day on Mars.

It is worth noting that this isn’t an all-time record we’re talking about; this is just a NASA best. In 1973, the Soviet Union launched the remote-controlled Lunkhold 2 rover, which traveled 23 miles across the lunar surface. So Opportunity still has a ways to before we can all start chanting, “USA! USA!” Still, it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.

Rover Infographic

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