11 Years to the Day, NASA Mars Rover is Still Driving
On Earth, the iconic Land Rover Defender marks a significant chapter in its history for 2015, but in space a different type of rover is making history. NASA's Mars Opportunity rover, which landed on the red planet exactly 11 years ago to the day, has driven a total of 25.9 miles. That's farther than any off-Earth vehicle has ever achieved – quite the feat. Even more amazingly, the rover's original mission was planned to take three months. It has since provided over a decade of extraterrestrial service and scientific discoveries, including evidence of ancient Martian lakes and microbial life. Take a look below. RELATED: See photos of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo before its fatal mission
So how is it that the world's most expensive RC car can continue to operate over ten years after its original intended mission? It was built pretty tough. Launched in 2003, NASA's Opportunity and Spirit rovers combine space-grade aluminum and titanium components capable of withstanding the incredible 180 degree Martian temperature swings. The crafts also sport six-wheel-drive, adjustable suspension, and a low center of gravity, allowing them up to 45 degrees of tilt without tipping.
Spirit, which ended its mission in 2010, experienced a seemingly catastrophic wheel motor failure after two years on Mars. NASA simply drove it backwards for the next four years. Here's hoping the Opportunity rover has a few more years and many more miles left on the odometer.
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