Tags: Opportunity | NASA | Mars | robot | marathon

NASA's Opportunity Wins Marathon Race on Mars

By    |   Wednesday, 25 March 2015 03:35 PM

It's not exactly a speed demon but NASA's little golf-cart-sized, six-wheeled robot rover Opportunity keeps chugging along, and just won first place in the first outer space marathon race, beating the Russians.

In just 11 years and two months, Opportunity topped the Russian Lunokhood 2 moon rover's previous distance record of 24.2 miles by covering a distance of 26.221 miles, outpacing the standard distance of an earth marathon of 26.219 miles, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports.

By comparison, the Earth record for a marathon is under two hours and three minutes, held by Dennis Kimetto, The Washington Post reports.

Still, 11 years and two months is not bad for a vehicle that looks like a kid's remote control toy and was only supposed to last for three months after it landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, CNN reports.

However, Opportunity kept rolling along on the Red Planet's surface, sending back data that showed the presence of both running water and groundwater on the planet's surface, CNN noted.

Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, didn't do so well. Spirit landed three weeks before Opportunity but when it got stuck in some loose sand, it stopped talking to scientists on Earth and was declared to be dead a year later, CSM reports.

Opportunity kept on with its mission long after NASA thought that it would be a goner.

However, it is showing signs of aging, with "arthritis" in its mechanical arm and a touch of senility — a failing memory, which NASA hopes a recent software fix will correct.

"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said, NASA reported.

"A first time happens only once."

Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University, said in a NASA release, "This mission isn't about setting distance records, of course. It's about making scientific discoveries on Mars and inspiring future explorers to achieve even more.

"Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool."

CNN notes that Opportunity, which now is on the rim of the Endeavor crater after taking four years to cross it, is in Marathon Valley, newly named in honor of the rover's interplanetary achievement.

"The Mars Exploration Rover Project, NASA's newer Curiosity Mars rover and three active NASA Mars orbiters are part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential," NASA stated.

"In parallel, NASA is developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for its journey to Mars."

NASA notes that mission team members will run a marathon relay race next week to celebrate Opportunity's win.

Watch the video here.


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It's not exactly a speed demon but NASA's little golf-cart-sized, six-wheeled robot rover Opportunity keeps chugging along, and just won first place in the first outer space marathon race, beating the Russians.
Opportunity, NASA, Mars, robot, marathon
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2015-35-25
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 03:35 PM
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