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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 9:29 EDT

NASA Rover Enters Atmosphere of Mars

January 4, 2004

A NASA rover plunged into the atmosphere of Mars late Saturday to begin its descent to the surface of the planet, signals from the spacecraft showed.

The Spirit spacecraft was to take six minutes to reach the surface.

It was not immediately clear if NASA could maintain contact with the unmanned spacecraft throughout its descent to the planet’s surface.

If contact was lost, confirmation of a safe landing could take hours, mission members said.