Lunar Orbiter Spots Long Lost Russian Rover

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If you thought the marathon being run by NASA's Mars Expedition Rover Opportunity was impressive (the wheeled explorer has covered over 19 kilometers, or 12 miles, and still roving strong), spare a thought for the Russian Lunokhod 2 rover that explored the moon in 1973. It covered 37 kilometers (23 miles), holding the record for furthest distance traveled by a robot across an alien landscape.

And now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) -- with the help of a Canada-based researcher -- spotted the tracks made by the 840 kg (1,850 lb) Lunokhod 2, leading to the dead rover itself, next to a crater where it broke down after 4 months of hard moon driving.

On Monday, the LRO mission released 10 Terabytes (that's about 100 times the storage capacity of my laptop) of image data to the public. This might sound a little overwhelming, but Phil Stooke, a professor at The University of Western Ontario, has an intimate knowledge of the lunar geography (having written the 2007 reference book The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration) and knew exactly where to look.

"The tracks were visible at once," said Stooke. "Knowing the history of the mission, it's possible to trace the rover's activities in fine detail."...

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