Video: Landing on Mars

updated 12/29/2003 2:23:08 PM ET 2003-12-29T19:23:08

NASA said Monday it successfully adjusted the course of a rover that is scheduled to land on Mars this weekend as part of a mission to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet.

Engineers altered the course by firing the thrusters of the Spirit spacecraft for 3.5 seconds Friday, shifting the scheduled landing spot by about 34 miles (54 kilometers), mission manager Mark Adler said.

It was the fourth and possibly last time the course has been adjusted for the six-wheeled robot. Such adjustments become necessary as the craft gets closer to its destination.

Spirit is being sent to Gusev Crater, a depression the size of Connecticut that scientists believe once held a lake. It is set to land Saturday.

Spirit is one-half of a $820 million double mission to Mars. Its identical twin, Opportunity, is scheduled to land Jan. 24.

Both rovers were designed to prospect for minerals that could indicate whether the planet was once a wetter place hospitable to life.

Another lander, Britain’s Beagle 2, was to have set down on Mars last week but has not been heard from since.

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