• NASA rover Opportunity

NASA rover Opportunity (Photo : Reuters)

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity completed its first "marathon" on Tuesday. The machine racked up 26.219 miles during its 3,968th Martian day-making it a human milestone on a different world.

A Martian day, also called a "sol," is approximately the same length as an Earth day. It is only about 40 minutes longer.

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Meanwhile, the marathon is named for a battle that occurred on Marathon plain. According to legend, a Greek messenger ran 25 miles to Athens, to tell about a military victory. Today's marathon is about 26.2 miles (42.2 km)

John Callas, project manager of Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). referred to the achievement as major. That is because it is the first time any "human enterprise" has traveled more than a marathon's distance on another world's surface, according to Los Angeles Times.

Opportunity has already broken the record for extraterrestrial driving distance. It passed Lunokhod 2, a rover that completed the Soviet Union's Moon mission in 1973.

Both Opportunity and Spirit, its twin rover, landed on opposite sides of Mars in January 2004. During that time "Me, Myself and I" by Beyoncé topped the music chart, and the hottest box office film was "Along Came Polly."

The main objective of the Mars Exploration Rover mission was to study Mars' terrain. In particular, scientists wanted to learn how water once affected the now desolate planet.

Within six months of starting its search, Opportunity found evidence that running water and groundwater once existed on Mars, according to CNN. It discovered rocks that contained sulfate salts. Sulfates are atoms that can dissolve in water.

Originally, Opportunity's mission was supposed to last about 92.5 Earth days. Its new mission is to examine the edge of the Endeavour Crater, to search for signs of ancient microscopic life.

The Opportunity rover is currently on a Martian gorge that NASA has aptly named Marathon Valley. To celebrate the event, NASA employees celebrated at the NASA lab located in La Canada-Flintridge, California. They ran a marathon.