The Martian Marathon

Opportunity, still trucking over a decade into its 90 day mission, hobbled by NVRAM that isn’t holding some of its data overnight and a bum wheel that it’s forced to drag while driving backwards, is about to reach a new milestone.  It will shortly become the first rover to complete a marathon (26.219 miles or 42.195 kilometers).  In honor of this achievement, Oppy’s current target has been dubbed Marathon Valley.  It will hit the marathon mark in about 220 yards.  The going is slow, hampered as Opportunity is with its technical problems, but there’s really no reason not to expect it to complete the challenge.PIA19141_ip

The current marathon record for a human stands at a staggering 2 hours, 02 minutes, and 57 seconds, held by Kenyan runner Dennis Kimetto.  Most runners take considerably longer to complete a marathon, and merely finishing is considered a major accomplishment.  To date, there is no record for the marathon as completed by an extra-planetary unmanned rover, because so far none has completed a marathon.  But once Oppy gets there, it will set the record.  It’s not clear when Oppy will set this record; currently, mission controllers are debating on the safest route forward as there is a rather steep outcrop in front of the rover.  They may opt to go around it.  But if it set the record today, the time to beat would be 3930 Martian sols, or 3,825 Earth days (10 years, 173 days).

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