The U.S. Mars rover "Spirit" is trekking across the red planet's surface looking for evidence of water, after successfully rolling off its landing platform for the first time since arriving there nearly two weeks ago.
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said today (Thursday) that all six of Spirit's wheels are in Martian dirt. The laboratory's director (Charles Elachi) described Mars as "a sandbox," saying NASA scientists are ready to "play and learn."
Shortly after the rover rolled on to Mars' surface today, it began beaming back black and white pictures of the planet, with parallel tracks from its wheels shown behind it.
Spirit will spend the next 90 days exploring Mars' landscape, taking pictures and collecting and analyzing soil and rock samples. It is also scouring Mars' surface for signs of water--a building block for sustaining life.
An identical planetary explorer, called Opportunity, is scheduled to land on the opposite side of Mars later this month.
Information for this report is provided by AP.