Opportunity keeps on its mission

The &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/05/27/29346.html ' target=_blank>Mars rover Opportunity resumed rolling freely across the Martian surface Saturday after scientists freed it from a sand dune where it had been mired for nearly five weeks, NASA officials said.

Engineers at the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/16/42120_.html ' target=_blank>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, cheered when images beamed back to Earth showed the rover's wheels were free.

"We've got a working rover on Mars that cost $400 million to build and ... keep working," project manager Jim Erickson said. "I'd like to wear it out rather than lose it."

A photograph taken by Opportunity and posted on the laboratory's Web site showed the long tracks of its wheels crossing a featureless dune.

Opportunity's wheels started slipping April 26 during a planned 295-foot trip. While trying to drive over a foot-high sand dune, the robotic explorer stopped moving, its wheels hub-deep in soft soil.

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