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Opportunity Sends First Mars Images to Earth - 2004-01-25


Pandemonium broke out at mission control in California when the Opportunity spacecraft endured a fiery descent through the Martian atmosphere to land safely on target halfway around the planet from the Spirit rover already there.

Like Spirit three weeks ago, descent signals from Opportunity showed that it deployed a parachute and fired braking rockets on schedule to slow its 20-thousand kilometer per hour entry speed. It bounced and rolled for several minutes after inflating cushioning airbags.

Navigation team member Louis D'Amario says the landing was on target. "It looks like that we hit the bull's-eye again with Opportunity, just like for Spirit."

Hours earlier, mission engineers described progress in fixing what they believe is a computer software problem that has interrupted the Spirit rover's operations.

They predict it will take weeks to solve before the vehicle collects science data again.

The goal of the twin spacecraft is to find signs that water once flowed on Mars -- which could indicate that life once inhabited the red planet.

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