back to article Nuclear power will let NASA Mars rover beat 1970s Soviet record

Everyone knows the famous NASA Mars rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity": but not everyone knows that for all their renowned longevity they do not hold the record for robot rover distance rolled on an extraterrestrial body. That honour belongs to the Soviet Moon rover Lunokhod-2, despite the fact that it was launched more than …


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  1. Thomas 4


    Inherently unlikely I know, but would this thing be emitting any sort of external radiation at all? It would be shame if any Martian sand-plankton got fried as soon as Curiousity scooped it up. I'm just curious* as to how they get the heat circulation without the issue of radiation.


    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Be warm all night, take an RTG to bed

      Nope, mainly Alpha. Don't ingest and you will be safe.

      This also means that you don't need to make your rover nuclear-reactor proof.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Dazed and Confused

      A life time, but not long

      Test have proved that Polonium tea pots will keep your tea warm and come with a life time guarantee.

  3. A.A.Hamilton
    Black Helicopters


    What I want to know is who shot this movie, without leaving a trace on the surface? What is NASA not telling us, like how did the movie maker rendezvous with the rover device so effectively?

  4. MaXimaN

    Opportunity has already broken the 34km record

    It reached 34.33 kilometers on November 16th. This is also the first winter Opportunity has really had to hibernate, not counting the "deep sleeps" it has had to do at night due to the stuck-on heater in the robotic arm.

    1. Alex King

      What 34km record?

      Article says Lunokhod's record was 37km.

  5. pixl97

    > Meanwhile thermocouples exploit the big difference between hot battery and cold exterior to generate more than 100 watts of electricity for years on end, all of which can go on propulsion and instruments.

    Will it matter one bit when the whole thing slams in to the surface of Mars at a few thousand Kmph because of a metric conversion error?

  6. Andrew Smith 1

    Martian Mutants

    Simple martian life could be mutated to create advanced martian life.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opportunity and Spirit have radioisotope heaters

    A bit unfair to describe their time as 'wasted'

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sorry Lunokhod

    I miss Lunokhod . How we all went out of our way to ignore it on the news for fear of upsetting our US overlords.

  9. Beachrider

    Lunikhod vs Curiousity...

    Hmmm... Comparing post-Apollo Lunikhod to Martian-landing-Curiousity...

    At the time, use of control-from-earth Lunikhod vs Apollo LRV was a non-competition. The LRV was much faster and covered more distance (Apollo 15: 25 km in July/Aug 1971; Apollo 16: 22.7 km in Apr 1972; Apollo 17: 35.9 km in Dec 1972).

    ... most sources that mention the greatest distance for a rover note that Apollo 17 has that record, not Lunikhod 2...

  10. Patrick Seyler

    Poor Martians

    After watching the youtube, I can but think “Every Martian’s nightmare, a radioactive, laser shooting probing alien.”

    Ok I will get my coat.

  11. Andy Watt

    Too soon...?

    This sounds like your old line about Nuclear Power Lewis. Isn't it too soon after Fukushima for you to be trumpeting about Nuclear power again?

    That said - this is basic good design principle in action. Good story!

  12. Simon Bradshaw

    "The comparatively primitive Lunokhod was able to roll much faster - and so much farther - than today's Mars rovers for the simple reasons that Mars is much farther from the Sun"

    Sort of - but it's not a power issue that caused this, rather the distance from Earth. Lunokhod was able to drive much further because it could be directly remote-controlled from Earth; the round-trip signal time was only a couple of seconds, which is not an inconvenience at a slow roll. Mars rovers have to be semi-autonomous, which means that even with sophisticated obstacle-avoidance software they are limited in how far they can safely drive each day,

  13. Dave Murray

    bathtub-like bodies

    I always thought the Lunokhods looked like old fashioned prams.

  14. Tom Maddox Silver badge


    Are you sure it's not powered by potatoes?

    Mine's the one with the Yukon Golds in the pockets.

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    First et it get there in one functioning piece!

    Fingers crossed!

    If successful, it could far outstrip Spirit and Opportunity

    1. Bill B

      Yes .. the question is .. will it exceed the 34Km figure or will it just be spread over 34 sq km?

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