The Spirit Has Landed

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NASA's Mars lander Spirit began sending black-and-white photos of the red planet back to Earth Sunday, just hours after a textbook landing on what scientists hope is a dry lake bed. The 3-D photos gave scientists the clearest view yet of the Martian surface and it's only going to get better. The six-wheeled robot is expected to roam its new home for 90 days, gathering samples and looking for signs of past life. It (hopefully) will be joined on the planet by a second rover later this month. Meanwhile, British scientists will continue trying to contact their Mars probe Beagle 2, which was to have landed on Christmas Day. No signals have been received from the British probe. NASA's Mars success came on the heels of another accomplishment in space the previous day. The Stardust spacecraft took dozens of close-up images of the nucleus of a 3.3-mile-diameter comet. The pictures show a pockmarked surface with up to seven jets of material shooting from the comet. The spacecraft also gathered gas and dust samples from the comet and is scheduled to jettison them back to earth in January 2006.