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04-Jan-04 | Safe passage, safe landing

It’s been a busy weekend for NASA. On Friday evening, Stardust (Delta 266, 07-Feb-99) cruised smoothly through the tail of comet Wild 2, surviving the encounter with nary a glitch and providing exciting pictures of the comet nucleus. A day later, the innovative sample return mission was overshadowed by Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (Delta 298, 10-Jun-03), which bounced to a safe landing in Gusev Crater. It soon provided black-and-white images of a terrain with little to see visually but, one hopes, plenty to learn scientifically. Colour photos are expected some time later today; the rover will hit the road in about a week.

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