NASA’s Mars rover has officially driven farther than any other vehicle on the surface of another celestial body, according to space agency officials.
The Opportunity rover is part of Cornell astronomy professor Steve Squyres’ research on Mars.
Squyres serves as the principal investigator of research rovers Opportunity and its twin, Spirit.
Opportunity and Spirit landed on different parts of Mars in January 2004. The rovers were searching for evidence of past water activity on the planet, which they successfully found.
NASA lost contact with Spirit in 2010, but Opportunity kept driving on.
As of July 27, 2014, the Opportunity rover has driven 25.01 miles on Mars, just shy of a marathon (26.2 miles).
Opportunity’s distance is remarkable because the rover was initially intended to drive about one kilometer, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas said in a press release.
The previous distance record had been held by the Soviet Unions’ remote controlled Lunokohd 2 rover, which covered 24.2 miles on the moon in 1973, NASA officials said.
“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,” Squyres said in a press release.
“We’re in a second golden age now, and what we’ve tried to do on Mars with Spirit and Opportunity has been very much inspired by the accomplishments of the Lunokhod team on the moon so many years ago,” Squyres added. “It has been a real honor to follow in their historical wheel tracks.”