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NASA's Opportunity rover finishes marathon on Mars

WASHINGTON, March 25 — NASA's Opportunity rover completed its first Red Planet marathon of 42.195 kilometers on Tuesday with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months, the U.S. space agency said.

"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The long-lived rover surpassed the marathon mark during a drive of 46.5 meters.

Last year, Opportunity became the long-distance champion of all off-Earth vehicles when it topped the previous record set by the former Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 moon rover.

"This mission isn't about setting distance records, of course; it's about making scientific discoveries on Mars and inspiring future explorers to achieve even more," said Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University. "Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool."

Opportunity's original three-month prime mission in 2004 yielded evidence of environments with liquid water soaking the ground and flowing on planet's surface.

As the rover continued to operate far beyond expectations for its lifespan, scientists chose the rim of Endeavour Crater as a long-term destination.

Since 2011, examinations of Endeavour's rim have provided information about ancient wet conditions less acidic, and more favorable for microbial life, than the environment that left clues found earlier in the mission.

To celebrate the milestone, the rover team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will run a marathon-length relay at the lab next week. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/EBP

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