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NASA's Mars rover Opportunity breaks off-world driving record

The ten-year old rover managed to travel 40.24km since it landed on Mars in 2004, beating the record originally set back in 1973.

ALL ATTENTION ON Mars may be directed onto Curiousity, the latest rover NASA has on the red planet, but an older model is still doing the rounds and making an impact.

Opportunity, a Mars rover which landed on the planet in 2004, managed to break the record for the longest distance a vehicle has driven outside Earth.

The rover has driven 40.24km since it arrived, beating the record set by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover, which drove 39km on the moon in 1973. A drive of 157 feet (48 metres) on 27 July ensured that the record went to the ten-year old rover.

The rover had driven more than 32km before it arrived at Endeavour Crater in 2011, where it examined outcrops on the crater’s rim containing clay and sulfate-bearing minerals.

14-202a_0 A map showing the route Opportunity has taken since it landed on Mars in 2004. Source: Nasa

What makes this more impressive was Opportunity wasn’t designed to travel long distances. Instead, it was originally supposed to drive about one kilometre when it landed.

NASA is hoping that Opportunity will be able to reach the next major investigation spot, Marathon Valley, located two kilometres from where it is, where it’s believed that several clay minerals are exposed closed together at this site.

The Project Manager for Mars Exploration Rover, John Callas, said that while the achievement was “remarkable,” the main focus “is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

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Quinton O'Reilly

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