While 25 miles may not seem like much, the distance is a record for an off-world rover. After its last trip, NASA’s Opportunity rover has broken the record for driving distance previously held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover which covered 39 kilometers, around 24 miles, in 1973.
NASA’s Opportunity rover, along with the Spirit rover, launched to Mars on July 7, 2003, and reached the red planet Jan. 25, 2004. Opportunity launched as part of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission with a primary scientific mission scheduled for 92 days, but continues to deliver science and drive around Mars more than 10 years later. Spirit spent five years studying Mars before getting stuck in soil May 1, 2009, and NASA lost communication with the rover Jan. 26, 2010.
Opportunity broke the record July 27, traveling 157 feet during the day to push it’s odometer to 25.01 miles, as it headed toward its next destination, Marathon Valley, NASA reported. Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, in a statement called the achievement "remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”
The long-running rover landed in Eagle Crater and soon traveled east to Endurance Crater in 2004. From there, Opportunity has made stops at Victoria Crater and traveled more than 20 miles to reach the rim of Endeavour Crater. Opportunity’s next destination is around 1.2 miles away and the rover will have traveled 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon.
During its decade on Mars, Opportunity has discovered plenty of evidence of water in the red planet’s past. Opportunity has found evidence of flowing water, which suggests Mars was once capable of sustaining life.