The Opportunity rover wouldn’t come close to placing in a marathon here on Earth.
But it’s still managed to complete an impressive feat by travelling 26.2 miles in 11 years — a record time, by Mars’ standards. Coming in at a close second is the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2, which travelled 24 miles before losing contact with Earth in 1973.
Between January 2004, when Opportunity landed on Mars, and April 2015, cameras on board the rover chronicled its journey by snapping hundreds pictures, which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently compiled into an amazing time-lapse video.
The video crams all 11 years into an exciting eight-minute movie and includes a map pointing to where the rover is at the time the photo was taken.
When the lander first touched down in 2004 it landed near the Endurance Crater, shown in the map below. Over the next 21 months it traversed 5.7 miles south toward Victoria:
Opportunity gets its energy from solar panels located on its back, which provides the juice the rover uses for its explorations on Mars.
Viewers can relive all of the milestone moments for Opportunity, such as exploration of the Victoria and Endeavour craters, as well as that time it got
stuck in the sand in 2005 for five weeks. Here it is struggling to get free:
Victoria Crater — located about 5.7 miles south of Endurance Crater — is six times the size of Endurance, and Opportunity was the first and remains the only lander to ever explore this fascinating feature on Mars. While there, the rover found signs of ancient water, similar to what it saw at Endurance, and rock layers that could be petrified sand dunes.
And if you watch the full video with your headphones on you’ll hear a strange sound that resembles wind, but is something else entirely: It actually comes from vibration measurements from Opportunity’s accelerometer. The louder the sound, the rougher the terrain!
Considering NASA didn’t think the mission would last past the first 90 days, Oppportunity’s 11-year-run is an amazing success story. NASA says the rover’s lasted as long as it has because of “a combination of sturdy construction, creative solutions for operating the rovers and even a little luck!”
Right now, Opportunity is on the western rim of the Endeavour Crater, which at 13.7 miles in diameter is far bigger than any of the other craters Opportunity has visited so far. It plans to head into Marathon Valley, so named because of the distance the rover has travelled to get there.
Watch the full video on YouTube:
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