- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It may not be ready for the Olympics just yet, but one of NASA’s Mars rovers has completed a landmark marathon trek across the surface of the Red Planet.

The rover “Opportunity,” which landed on Mars in 2004, passed the marathon mark on Tuesday as it traversed more than 26 miles while exploring the alien landscape — the longest any human-made object has traveled on another planet.

“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” John Callas, Opportunity’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told CNN.

The JPL team in Pasadena, California, is planning a marathon-relay race next week to celebrate the achievement. And the area on Mars the rover has now entered is being named in honor of the milestone: Marathon Valley.

It passed the previous record of an estimated 23 miles for exploration distance held by Soviet moon rover Lunokhod 2.

Though originally scheduled for a three-month mission, Opportunity has pressed on for 11 years. Its sister rover, Spirit, stopped transmitting in 2010.

The next generation of rover, Curiosity, landed in 2012 and is also currently still exploring Mars.

The longest distance humans have ever traversed on another planet was the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972, who used a light-weight vehicle known as a Lunar Rover to drive more than 22 miles, according to NASA.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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