NASA’s Opportunity Rover Completes a Martian Marathon

Courtesy of The Atlantic. By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

The Mars probe is the first human-made vehicle to travel 26.2 miles on a non-Earth planet.

Only 11 years and two months after it began, NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover has completed a marathon across the planet’s barren red desert. The rover made its final roll toward the 26.219-mile mark Tuesday morning, logging in a total of 26.221 miles (42.195 kilometers) on its odometer.

“It’s historic,” said John Callas, a NASA astronomer who manages the Mars Exploration Rover project, in an interview. “This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded a marathon somewhere other than Earth.”

Opportunity was designed to drive a distance of only one kilometer. Its current record is 42 times longer than that. “It’s like having a car that’s supposed to last 100,000 miles, and then you drive it 4 million miles without ever changing its oil—that’s just amazing!” Callas said. For the past few months he and his colleagues have been counting down the distance on an office whiteboard. The final leg of the race, about 140 feet, is an entry they now feel lucky to erase.

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