A digitally simulated image of NASA's Opportunity rover in Endurance crater which it surveyed in 2005 (Credits: NASA/Z. Gorjian, K. Kuramura, M. Stetson, E. De Jong).

A digitally simulated image of NASA’s Opportunity rover in Endurance crater which it surveyed in 2005 (Credits: NASA/Z. Gorjian, K. Kuramura, M. Stetson, E. De Jong).

A well known constraint of robotic exploration is the speed at which robotic rovers travel. That is, they travel very slowly. A case in point is the Mars laboratory Curiosity. Since its landing in August 2012, Curiosity has travelled just 0.7 km. But one thing you can say for robots: they sure don’t give up.

Until May 16, 2013, the US record for furthest off-planet ground traversal was held by the Apollo 17 moonwalkers Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt whose Lunar Roving Vehicle carried them 35.74 km over the Moon’s surface in 1972. That record was beaten last week by the dogged Martian rover Opportunity. Now in its 9th year of operations, Opportunity hit 35.76 km, and is still going.

That means Opportunity can next work on achieving the world record for extraterrestrial driving. There is still the Soviet Lunokhod 2 to beat. That vessel put in 37 km when it landed on the Moon on 1973.

For some more off-planet driving stats, check out this infographic from NASA:

Rover travel distances infographic

 

 

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Merryl Azriel

Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, Merryl now enjoys reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. After three years as Space Safety Magazine’s Managing Editor, Merryl semi-retired to Visiting Contributor and manager of the campaign to bring the International Space Station collaboration to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. She keeps her pencil sharp as Proposal Manager for U.S. government contractor CSRA.