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Mars rover makes history

Dave Raish
August 25, 2014

NASA's Opportunity rover has driven 25 miles on the surface of Mars. In doing so, it has traveled farther on the surface of another planet than any man-made vehicle before it.

Mars Rover Opportunity
Image: picture alliance/dpa

A drive of 157 feet (48 meters) pushed Opportunity just over the 25-mile (40-kilometer) mark to make Martian history, NASA said, breaking the previous record held by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover.

"This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for this distance," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished."

Opportunity first landed on Mars' Meridiani Planum in 2004, shortly after its sister rover Spirit, which ceased operation four years ago. In 2011, it began exploring Endeavour Crater.

Mars Rover Opportunity Greifarm
Opportunity departed Earth for Mars' surface in 2003Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Should Opportunity be able to continue to the distance of a marathon - 26.2 miles - NASA says it will reach its next major investigation site dubbed "Marathon Valley."

NASA's newest rover Curiosity arrived on Mars in 2012 and began exploring the Gale Crater.

The Mars Exploration Rover Mission has made important discoveries concerning water activity on ancient mars, specifically the planet's ability to have fostered life.

A new NASA rover mission is planned for 2020.

The Soviet Lunokhod 2 set the previous distance record of 24.2 miles after landing in the Earth's moon in 1973. It completed its historic drive in less than five months, according to NASA calculations based off of images showing the rover's tracks.

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