US space agency NASA’s Opportunity rover had succeeded in breaking a 40-year-old record in 2014 when it passed 25 miles of exploration on the Red Planet. But this was not the end for the rover as it rolled on further and eventually crossed the finish line of a so-called marathon on the Mars.
On March 24, Opportunity topped as a long-distance runner as it successfully covered 26 miles of driving distance in 11 years and 2 months, or 3,968 Martian days. A day in the Martian atmosphere is equivalent to approximately 24 hours and 37 minutes on the Earth.
John Callas., project manager of Opportunity, said, “This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world.”
The team behind the rover project has planned completion a relay of marathon-length run at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Earth in order to celebrate the major accomplishment.
Opportunity is not undergoing resting on its laurels. The rover is currently continuing with its mission to explore the Endeavour Crater’s rim in order to find out new clues to the early Martian environment and whether it supported microbial life at any point of time.
The Curiosity rover, NASA’s another mission to Mars, is catching most of the space headlines, thanks to its high-tech sampling equipment and drills.
Opportunity has, however, diligently explored Mars, its surface and atmosphere, ever since its landing in 2004. The Opportunity rover was initially scheduled for only a three-month mission on the Mars.