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Rolling up to the crater's edge, the Opportunity rover took in a landscape unlike anything any Earthling had ever seen. A vast, meteorite-blasted expanse of volcanic rock and iron oxide extended for 15 miles, ringed by rugged mountains under a dusky orange sky. In months to come, the enterprising robot would uncover signs that warm, liquid water had altered these ancient rocks - evidence that the conditions for life once existed on Mars.

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