Mars Opportunity Rover just broke a 40-year-old NASA space record

Contributed by
May 17, 2013, 7:54 PM EDT (Updated)

The nine-year-old rover has logged some serious drive time on the Martian surface.

On Wednesday, Opportunity drove 263 feet as part of its exploration of the edge of Mars' Endeavour crater, and with that short jaunt across the Red Planet it became the most-driven NASA vehicle ever to leave Earth. Opportunity has now driven a total of 22.22 miles on the Martian surface, breaking the record set by the Apollo 17 lunar rover, which was driven 22.21 miles across the surface of the Moon by astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in December of 1972.

"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," Cernan said a few days ago in a conversation with Opportunity team member Jim Rice, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., space agency officials said.

Though Opportunity now holds the NASA record, it is not the most-driven space vehicle ever. That honor still belongs to the Russian remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 rover, which drove 23 miles on the lunar surface in 1973. Lunokhod 2 is no longer in use, though, and Opportunity is still rolling. In fact, it's now scheduled to travel to an area of Mars known as Solander Point, which lies 1.4 miles away from its current position on the Martian surface. So, provided it maintains communication with Earth and doesn't break down, it's very much in sight of the all-time record.

(Via Huffington Post)

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker