This image from a rear camera on Spirit shows the lander platform, about three feet away at the time this picture was taken.
PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Spirit rover rolled off its lander and onto the surface of Mars early Thursday, placing its six wheels on solid ground for the first time since the unmanned robot bounced down on the Red Planet nearly two weeks ago.
"Mars now is our sandbox," said Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We are ready to play and learn."
Pictures beamed from Spirit showed the now-abandoned lander with tire tracks leading away from it.
The team at JPL sent the order to Spirit to get moving around 3:21 a.m. ET, playing the theme from "Rawhide" ("Rolling, rolling, rolling ...") to get in the mood. Less than two hours later, the rover sent confirmation it had sucessfully maneuvered down its ramp and onto the Martian soil.