The U.S. Mars rover has made its first movement more than a week after landing. Mission controllers say it is ready to crawl onto the red planet's soil late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California used an explosive charge to cut the last of three restraining cables and commanded the Spirit rover to back up 25 centimeters on its landing platform.
They also began turning the six-wheeled vehicle toward the exit path that it will follow over the side of the lander.
"Spirit is a rover!" said Chris Lewicki, one of the flight directors for the Spirit mission. "The engineering team is elated that we are driving finally. We have cut our ties loose and we are ready to rove."
Engineers must turn the rover another 75 degrees before it drives three meters off the lander onto Martian soil. The turns are required because the preferred pathway down a front ramp is partially blocked by airbags that cushioned the landing.
Mission scientists will be seeking evidence of past water on the red planet's surface, a sign it might have been hospitable to life.