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The Mars and Moon Rovers Going the Distance

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Katharina Buchholz

Nasa's Perseverance Mars rover has been cruising the planet's surface for a year now after having touched down on February 18, 2021. The machine is searching for past life in an ancient river delta that once carried water across Mars. Perseverance has carried out three drillings, taking aboard the first Martian rocks intended to be returned to Earth.

Nasa has successfully landed five robot vehicles on the Martian surface since 1997 - Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit, Curiosity and Perseverance. The latter two are still operational - Curiosity after close to 3,500 days on Mars. Over the years, missions to the red planet have had a high failure rate with European Space Agency conducting unsuccessful landing attempts on two occasions, albeit without attempting a rover mission so far. The Soviet Union carried out a successful soft landing in 1971 that included a Mars rover but communications with the lander failed after just 20 seconds.

China was the second country to successfully carry out a Mars rover mission, which landed in 2021. Zhurong is part of the Tianwen-1 mission, but as of January had only moved short of one mile, also after roughly one year in operation. Chinese moon rovers Yutu-1 and Yutu-2 traveled even shorter distances from 2013 to 2016 and since early 2019, respectively.

Out of all the martian and lunar rovers that have made successful landings over the years, Opportunity has traveled the furthest distance, according to official Nasa data. It very slowly rumbled more than 28 miles between 2004 and 2018 before a dust storm resulted in it ceasing communication and entering hibernation, possibly due to the dust covering its solar panels.

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