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On NASA's Birthday, Mars Rover Sets A Mileage Record

Jul 29, 2014
Originally published on July 29, 2014 7:35 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And we have news of a record-setting tour on Mars. NASA announced yesterday that the Mars rover Opportunity has driven a longer distance than any other vehicle sent from Earth to a celestial body.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

In the 10 years Opportunity has been roaming the red planet, it's covered a grand total of 25 miles. The previous record was set by a Soviet craft that drove just under 24 miles across the surface of the moon in the early 1970s.

MONTAGNE: Opportunity's mission was supposed to last just 90 days. While marking Opportunity's 10th anniversary earlier this year, the director of NASA's jet propulsion lab, Charles Elachi, praised the craft.

CHARLES ELACHI: This plucky rover has survived sand dunes, bitter nights - it's outlived its warranty. I wonder how many of you have cars which have survived more than 10 years without ever taking them to the shop. So it is amazing, you know, what this rover had done.

WERTHEIMER: What it has done is traveled from crater to crater on the Martian surface, examining rocks for evidence that the planet could once have sustained life. It's traveled those 25 miles very deliberately. It spent two years examining one single crater.

MONTAGNE: And news of the record came as NASA was set to celebrate a birthday - President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the law that established the space agency on this day in 1958. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.