New Delhi: Opportunity, the little rover that could, has broken a 41-year-old driving distance record that's out of this world.
The decade-old NASA Mars rover has crossed the 25-mile mark, surpassing the 24.2-mile record held by the Russian moon rover Lunokhod 2.
There has been some uncertainty regarding how far Lunokhod 2 actually went on the moon during its five months of operation in 1973.
The lunar rover's record was initially set at 23 miles, then upped last year to 26 miles by a Russian team that analyzed photos of Lunokhod 2 tracks taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
But that estimate was revised downward recently, and NASA is confident that Opportunity is indeed now the record holder.
An international team has confirmed that the methods used to calculate the two rovers' odometry is consistent and comparable from the moon to Mars, agency officials said.
Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed in different parts of Mars in January 2004 on a three-month mission to search for evidence of past water activity.
Both rovers found plenty of such evidence, then kept on exploring the Red Planet; Spirit ceased communicating with Earth in 2010, while Opportunity is still going strong today.
Lunokhod 2 helped pave the way for such accomplishments, Opportunity team members said.
Opportunity will complete an off-world marathon (26.2 miles) if it can keep rolling along for another mile or so.
If Opportunity makes it that far — and there's no reason to doubt the rover, since mission managers say Opportunity remains in good health despite its advanced age — the six-wheeled robot will get close to a site the mission team has dubbed "Marathon Valley."
NASA's other operational Mars rover, the 1-ton Curiosity, has a long way to go before it can even get within sniffing distance of Opportunity's record.
The odometer on Curiosity, which touched down in August 2012, won't click over to double-digit miles for a while yet.