Mars Rover sets extraterrestrial distance record

BY Andrew Troast  July 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM EST
NASA's Opportunity rover took an image of the 'Lunokhod 2' Crater on Mars. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

NASA’s Opportunity rover took an image of the ‘Lunokhod 2′ Crater on Mars. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has now traversed 25.01 miles on the surface of the Red Planet, setting a new record for off-Earth distance traveled.

The Exploration Rover rolled 157 feet on Sunday, bringing its odometer reading officially over 25 miles. The previous record for extraterrestrial land travel was set by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover that landed on the moon in 1973 and drove 24.2 miles.

Opportunity has been on Mars since January, 2004. If it can travel another 1.1 miles, it will reach an exploration point scientists have dubbed “Marathon Valley;” named for the 26.2 mile distance from where the rover landed.

Opportunity is not the only NASA rover currently exploring the Martian surface. Mars rover Curiosity landed in 2012 and is engaged in analyzing mineral and atmospheric data as well as providing NASA with thousands of photographs for study. Curiosity discovered evidence of ancient stream beds and fresh water deposits on the planet, leading researchers to believe Mars once possessed conditions suitable for life.

NASA says that the future and ongoing rover missions to Mars are part of gaining information and experience to prepare for a manned expedition to the planet in the 2030s.

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech