We have thousands of world records, but there’s also off-world records to be set and broken. And NASA has just grabbed one of them off the Russians. Until recently the Russian lunar rover Lunokhod 2, which launched in 1973, held the record for longest distance driven off-world (39km). But NASA this week confirmed it has broken the record thanks to the progress made by the Opportunity rover on Mars. It is now the new champion of distance driven on another world.
Opportunity has been on the surface of Mars since January 25, 2004. It was only intended to drive about 1km, but on July 27 NASA saw the odometer make it to 40.25km (25.01 miles) and with it take the record. The only other off-world rover with any chance of beating that is Curiosity, but its distance total currently stands at just 8.6km and that journey could come to an abrupt end soon.
Since landing on Mars’ Meridiani Planum Opportunity has traveled past the Eagle Crater, Endurance Crater, Victoria Crater, Lunokhod 2 Crater, and now sits on the rim of the Endeavour Crater. Its journey isn’t over yet, though, with NASA hoping it can reach the Marathon Valley. If it does, the driving record will have been extended to 42.2km (26.2 miles).
NASA produced the image below to show just how great Opportunity’s distance traveled achievement is. The Apollo 17, 16, and 15 lunar rovers all did well, but nothing else comes close to Lunokhod 2 and now Opportunity. You have to wonder whether the next vehicle to set an off-world distance record will actually be driven by a human being…. see more