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Red Planet Roundup: Opportunity knocks; Spirit revives

The NASA rover Opportunity bounced onto an equatorial Martian plain called Meridiani on Jan. 25, half-a-planet away from its convalescing twin, Spirit. Not since 1976 had twin rovers landed on Mars, and never before had five spacecraft?three orbiters in addition to the rovers?simultaneously surveyed the Red Planet.

Although the region where Opportunity touched down is generally flat, the lander parachuted into a shallow crater, about 20 meters wide and 2 m deep. The rover's first images reveal a terrain darker than that at any previous landing site. Just 6 m to 8 m from the lander lies an outcropping of bedrock, the first recorded on Mars.

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