Pathfinder Bounces to a Landing

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ARES VALLIS, Mars: That old space-travel cliche -- Houston, we have touchdown -- couldn't really apply to the Mars Pathfinder's inelegant method of landing by slamming into the planet at 55 miles per hour, then bouncing like a basketball up to as much as 150 feet in the air until coming to rest. Still, controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were pleased. "It's been wonderfully dull," Flight Director Rob Manning said after the lander completed its seven-month journey. Whether the craft survived the impact intact was not immediately known, but NASA received radio signals from the Martian surface that suggested that it landed in the best position, with its base petal on the ground. Scientists were also happy that the lander came within 12 miles of the target point and was healthy, with all electronic subsystems running. If all continues to go well, the 22-pound, six-wheeled Sojourner rover will begin creeping across the dusty Ares Vallis plain late tonight.