Mars has received a one-two exploration punch as the second Rover -- Opportunity -- achieved a successful landing tonight on the red planet.
Engineers and scientists broke out in cheers and tears here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), mission control for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) program.
"We're on Mars everybody. We're getting a strong signal," said Rob Manning, JPL's Entry, Descent and Landing manager.
Opportunity looks to have completed a near-perfect entry, descent, and landing, plopping down in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. The spacecraft's exact whereabouts are not precisely known, but did touch down within a pre-determined, cigar-shaped ellipse within Meridiani Planum.
Roughly 4 hours after landing, the first images from Opportunity were being reviewed by anxious scientists staring at large screens at JPL.
"The data is flowing," cried out a voice from mission control.
As first images appeared, it was clear that the landscape was dark in color, very different from the Spirit landing site in Gusev Crater.
"It looks like a very different site, said John Callas mission science manager. "The scientists must be running wild."
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