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Scientists Marvel at Images from Second Mars Rover - 2004-01-26

Scientists are marveling at the first images of Mars transmitted by Opportunity - the second of two NASA space rovers sent to look at the red planet.

The pictures sent to NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory in California show a panoramic view of the level Martian surface called the Meridiani Planum, where Opportunity touched down early Sunday.

Opportunity is expected to send more images before the six-wheel rover rolls off its landing platform in several days to begin exploring its environment.

NASA chief Sean O'Keefe called Opportunity "a truly remarkable achievement" and praised the work of everyone involved in the Mars rover project.

Opportunity is in a region of Mars believed to be rich in hematite, an iron-bearing mineral that typically forms in the presence of water.

Recovering evidence to determine if Mars once had water - one of the key ingredients for life - is the top task facing the rover during its 90-day mission.

The first Mars rover, Spirit, landed on the opposite side of Mars three weeks ago, but has been sidelined by computer software problems since Wednesday.

NASA says it is slowly solving the problems, but it may be several more weeks before the six-wheel vehicle can resume scientific work.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.