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NASA’s Opportunity rover completes a Martian marathon

All of you hoping to run the first marathon on Mars, I have bad news for you.

NASA's rover Opportunity, the one which landed 11 years ago and exceeded its operating plan by more than 10 years, moved a total of 26.219 miles (42 kilometres) and thus completed the first ever Martian marathon.

It doesn’t take your usual marathon runner 11 years and two months to finish a race, but without oxygen, this is no ordinary race:

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

"A first time happens only once."

Up until July 2014, it was the Russian Lunokhod 2 lunar rover which held the record in movement – 39 kilometres, before being surpassed by Opportunity.

Opportunity’s mission highlights include the initial 90 sol mission, finding extramartian meteorites such as Heat Shield Rock (Meridiani Planum meteorite), and over two years studying Victoria crater.

The rover’s twin, Spirit, touched down on the other side of the planet three weeks before Opportunity, but got stuck in 2009 and ceased communications in 2010.

Along with its sister rover Curiosity and three Mars orbiters, Opportunity will seek to understand more about our nearest planetary neighbour, including "its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential," NASA said in a statement.

The space agency is also working to develop human spaceflight capabilities for a manned mission to Mars.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.