Mars rover Curiosity might be the talk of the town currently, but NASA‘s older Opportunity rover is still kicking it in high gear on the red planet. In fact, Opportunity has now traveled 22.22 miles, breaking a 40-year-old driving distance record of 22.21 miles when Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the Moon on a Lunar Roving Vehicle in 1972.
However, it’s important to note that this is a NASA record. The world record for the longest driving distance on another planet goes to the Soviet Union, who piloted a Lunokhod 2 rover in 1973, which traveled 23 miles on the Moon. Opportunity has been traveling Mars for over nine years now, and its still collecting rock samples and conducting experiences, even if Curiosity’s fame is overshadowing it all.
Opportunity broke the NASA record on its 3,309th Martian day by traveling 263 feet along the western rim of the Endeavour Crater. The rover first landed on Mars in January 2004 and has so far traveled 22.22 miles, meaning that the rover averaged a speed of 0.00028 miles per hour (roughly). Of course, 22 miles isn’t long at all for us humans, but it’s quite the trek for a robot.
Based on these numbers, Curiosity hasn’t even left the driveway yet. The new rover is just over a year old, but if NASA really puts it to work, Curiosity could break Opportunity’s record at a quicker pace, as well as the possibility of breaking the world record and taking the honor away from the Soviet Lunokhod 2.
Of course, Curiosity has already been the victim of a couple mishaps. One of its onboard computers ended up failing, resulting in a pause of operations that would delay experiments for a couple of weeks. While the rover eventually got back on its feet, it lost precious time that could’ve been used for collecting samples and taking images of the red planet.