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Mars rover Opportunity hits new record for miles driven in space

Breaking the record of miles trekked by a NASA vehicle in another world, the Mars rover traverses 22.2 miles across the Red Planet.

Mars rover Opportunity. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The plucky little Mars rover Opportunity has proven itself to be the Marco Polo of space. This extraterrestrial robot has set the new record for miles explored by a NASA vehicle in a world other than Earth, according to NASA.

On its 3,309th Martian day on the planet, Opportunity drove 263 feet along the western rim of the Endeavour Crater and broke records by putting its total distance traveled on Mars at 22.22 miles.

The previous record was set 40 years ago by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt when they visited the moon for a three-day stint in 1972. On this mission, they drove a Lunar Roving Vehicle 22.21 miles. The world record goes to the Soviet Union's remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 rover, however, which rolled 23 miles across the moon in 1973.

While often in the shadow of its popular sibling Curiosity, Opportunity has exceeded expectations by living on the inhospitable planet for nine years, exploring, collecting Martian rock samples, and beaming information back to Earth.

Cernan doesn't seem bothered by now coming in second place to this intrepid machine. "The record we established with a roving vehicle was made to be broken," he said in a statement, "and I'm excited and proud to be able to pass the torch to Opportunity."