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Spirit is the name of the first of two Mars rovers which reached the planet early in 2004 as part of the Mars Exploration Rover project. Spirit reached Mars on Saturday, January 3, 2004.

Spirit was launched on June 10, 2003, aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This image taken by the hazard avoidance camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the rover's rear lander petal and, in the background, the Martian horizon. Spirit took the picture just after successfully landing on the surface of Mars.

The 384-pound rover arrived on Mars after a seven-month, 311 million-mile journey. The spacecraft was traveling 12,000 miles an hour as it entered the top layer of the Martian atmosphere. At about five miles above the Martian surface, a parachute deployed to slow the craft to about 950 miles an hour. Eight seconds before touchdown, gas generators inflated an airbag-landing system allowing the capsule to bounce onto the Martian surface inside the Gusev Crater.

Once the bouncing stopped, the craft oriented itself and unfolded its petals to allow the rover to begin taking panoramic photographs, microscopic images of the surface, rock samples, and spectrometry readings.


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