Moving over NASA’s Curiosity, its predecessor Opportunity rover on Mars still active has achieved a milestone on Tuesday by crossing 26.219 miles (42 kilometers) on the surface of Mars described as the first-ever Martian marathon.
Opportunity has taken 11 years and 2 months to complete the marathon but it is a landmark achievement for NASA and the mankind.
“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity in-charge at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. He quickly adds, “A first time happens only once.”
Moreover, it has beaten earlier record set by the Soviet-era Lunokhod 2 moon rover in terms of distance on other planet. Lunokhod 2 moon walker was the second of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union in 1973.
Lunakhod 2 was estimated to have covered an agreeable distance of about 24 miles (39 km) after an international team confirmed that the methods used to calculate the two rovers’ odometry is consistent and comparable from the moon to Mars.
“This mission isn’t about setting distance records, of course,” said Cornell University’s Steve Squyres, the Opportunity mission’s principal investigator. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”
The Opportunity rover has exceeded the expectations since its landing on the Mars on January 25, 2004 with an original mission plan for just three months, which proved crucial enough as the rover discovered evidence of water on Mars in both running and groundwater format on the mostly barren planet.
Interestingly, Opportunity is still alive and kicking around the red planet. It is currently on the rim of the Endeavor crater, which it has been exploring for the last four years. Right now it is sitting on Marathon Valley, named after its own achievement.
Another NASA rover Curiosity is also traversing Mars surface, besides five orbiters currently surveying the planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mangalyaan (Indian MoM) and MAVEN.
The rover team in JPL, Pasadena is planning a marathon relay run next week to celebrate Opportunity’s landmark. NASA is planning its human spaceflight mission to Mars a decade from now.
Opportunity at a Glance:
- Opportunity moves on 6-wheels powered by solar-panels and weighs 180 kg and stands at 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 meters (7.5 ft) wide, and 1.6 meters (5.2 ft) long.
- It was fitted with cameras to take images of 1024-pixel by 1024-pixel, stores the data in a compressed format and transmits it to Earth.
- It charges its battery during the daytime and uses it in the night
- It can operate in a temperature ranging from – 40 to +40°Celsius
- Its onboard computer has a 20 MHz RAD6000 CPU with 128 MB of DRAM, 3 MB of EEPROM, and 256 MB of flash memory
- It can move at a speed of 5 centimetres per second.
- Opportunity is studying the Mars surface to determine the soil composition, rocks, minerals and checking surrounding area for comparison.
- It is also searching for iron-containing minerals and determine the types that contain water or formed in water
- To understand process behind the creation of rocks and soils
- To look for geological clues which co-existed when water was present
- To check whether the environment is conducive to life.