| LOS ANGELES, July 29
LOS ANGELES, July 29 NASA's decade-old Mars
rover Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance
record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the
Red Planet to surpass the benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian
probe on the moon.
Opportunity, which arrived on Mars in January 2004, a few
weeks after its now-defunct rover twin Spirit, was built to
drive only about a single kilometer but has continued to operate
far beyond its design capabilities.
Earlier this year, the aging but intrepid rover, a
six-wheeled vehicle about the size of a golf cart, found
evidence that fresh water once pooled on the surface of Mars,
reinforcing similar discoveries made by a newer, larger probe
Curiosity, on the other side of the planet.
On Sunday, the robot rover advanced another 157 feet (48
meters) as it continued along the rim of a Martian crater,
putting Opportunity's total odometer at 25.01 miles (40.25 km),
according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena,
By comparison, the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover drove
about 24.2 miles (39 km) in less than five months after landing
on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, JPL said. The manned lunar
rover driven by astronauts of the Apollo 17 mission logged 22.2
miles (35.7 km) in 1972.
"Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled
vehicle on another world," JPL's Mars Exploration Rover Project
Manager John Callas said in a statement.
Opportunity still has miles to go. Scientists said they plan
next to direct the rover to a nearby Martian valley that would
extend its accumulated operating distance to 26.2 miles, the
traditional length of a marathon.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Nick Zieminski)