Having traveled a grand total of 25 miles (40 km) over the course of its historic mission of exploration, NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has taken the record for the greatest distance traveled on another planetary body. The rover, only originally designed to travel around 1 km, massively exceeded its creators' most optimistic expectations, and has now covered almost the distance of a full marathon on its mission to unlock the secrets of the Red Planet.
"Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world," stated John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager. "This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance."
A shot of the Lunokhod 2 Crater taken from the Opportunity rover (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)
NASA's veteran rover broke the record on July 27th with a drive of 48 m (157 ft), stealing the record out from under its long-term lunar rival, the Lunokhod 2. The Russian rover had driven 24 miles (39 km) across the surface of the moon following a successful landing in 1972.
Lunokhod 2 is however not entirely without accolades, as she still holds the record for most distance traveled on the lunar surface, having surpassed the manned Apollo era lunar rovers, the most successful of which traveled a still impressive 22.21 miles (35.74 km).
Prior to breaking the record, Opportunity mission controllers paused on their epic journey to name a crater after Lunokhod 2, as a mark of respect to the Russian-made explorer. Currently, Opportunity continues on its journey, with the next site of scientific interest a mere 1.2 miles (1.9 km) away, a trifling distance to the reigning extraterrestrial marathon champion.