Robotic exploration of the planet Mars is the goal of two space missions launched in 2003. Their aim was to use robots and a host of instrumentation to take samples of soil and rock and to analyse them for evidence of life. The NASA project, which landed on Mars in January 2004, has put the two wheeled rovers Spirit and Opportunity into operation. Between them they have driven a total of more than 3.5 km during a mission that has lasted more than 130 days. Beagle 2, the British‐led project, was designed to take samples from the vicinity of the landing craft, but this has not happened due to loss of contact with the lander.
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