NASA announced today that its Opportunity Mars rover has beat the off-Earth roving distance record previously held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover after driving 25 miles. The Opportunity Mars landed on the planet back in 2004.
On Sunday the vehicle traveled another 157 feet, which now put its total mileage at 25.01 miles. The Lunokhod 2 landed on Earth’s moon on Jan. 15, 1973 and drove about 24.2 miles in approximately five months.
“Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world,” said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “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.”
The Opportunity Mars continues to explore the landscape of the red planet, where NASA hopes to send humans on a mission by the 2030s.
This past month, the rover began driving along the western rim of Endeavour Crater. It had originally arrived at the crater in 2011, where it started examining outcrops that contained clay and sulfate-bearing minerals.
When the Opportunity Mars began to inch toward the 24.2-mile record earlier this year, the team behind the rover decided to name a crater Lunokhod 2 in honor of the initial accomplishment.
“The Lunokhod missions still stand as two signature accomplishments of what I think of as the first golden age of planetary exploration, the 1960s and ’70s,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University and principal investigator for NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit.