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Mars Rover <i>Spirit</i> Resumes Taking Pictures - 2004-01-30

The U.S. Spirit rover on Mars is taking pictures again as engineers continue fixing a computer problem that had stopped its research. On the other side of the red planet, its twin, Opportunity, has stretched its legs in preparation for rolling off its lander.

The Spirit rover has transmitted a picture of its instrument arm, the first image it has taken since a computer problem interrupted its observations last week.

Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have commanded the vehicle to make new pictures with its sharp panoramic camera and to transmit data on nearby rocks that it had acquired before the computer trouble developed.

Engineers believe Spirit's technical problem was computer memory overload from too much data stored since its June launch. So they continue to delete unnecessary files and say they believe the spacecraft will be perfect again.

The identical Opportunity rover has extended its rear wheels backward to driving position. The U.S. space agency NASA says engineers are getting it ready to roll onto Martian terrain to begin soil and rock observations as early as Saturday.

The two spacecraft landed on the red planet earlier this month to search for geologic evidence that would show whether it was ever wet enough to support life.