Opportunity rover breaks off-world record

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Opportunity, the little rover that could, has broken a 41-year-old driving distance record that’s out of this world. The decade-old NASA Mars rover has crossed the 25-mile mark, surpassing the 24.2-mile record held by the Russian moon rover Lunokhod 2.

Not too shabby for a rover that landed on the Red Planet in 2004 with a 90-day mission and an odometer geared for a roughly 0.6-mile drive, said John Callas, the mission’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

“No one in their wildest dreams thought the rover would last this long,” Callas said. “People made bets early on — ‘Maybe we can get to the first Martian winter,’ ‘Maybe we can get two years out of it’ — but no one thought that it would last this long.”

No one’s betting against Opportunity now. It may be aging, with an arthritic elbow and a somewhat disabled front wheel, but it has long outlived its twin rover, Spirit, and lasted roughly 40 times as long as it was supposed to.