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Russians Land Mars Rover

Roscosmos Sends Race Challenge To NASA

ANN April 1 Special Coverage

In what may be the ultimate off-road spectacle, Roscosmos has challenged NASA to a Baja-style race between Curiosity and Russia's' Mars rover that it secretly landed on the red planet last week.

"We kept the mission very, very quiet," said Roscosmos spokesman Uri Nuttinksi. "Just in case we had another failure, we needed to keep the launch out of the press. But now that our "Chelyabinsk" rover is on the planet, it's time to see just who's got the faster explorer."

Chelyabinsk is the Russian city over which a meteor exploded last month. The object is thought to have passed near Mars before it encountered the Earth, and a Russian school child thought it would be an appropriate memorial of the event to name Russia's first Martian rover after the city.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden accepted the challenge, saying that the space agency's association with NASCAR gives it an edge in go-fast technology. "We had gotten wind that the Russians were up to something," Bolden said, "and that computer switch we did in March was actually done to activate NASCAR-developed technology on Curiosity. Believe me, if the Russians want to Cha-Cha ... we're ready to put the pedal to the Martian metal." The agency has recruited "Top Gear" host Rutledge Wood, a well-known NASCAR fan, to drive Curiosity for the race.

NASA TV will carry the race live, which is expected to see speeds of up to 7.34 miles per hour. "That may seem slow," Bolden said. "But heck, people watch sailboat races on TV. We figure we'll at least be competitive with that."

The race has generated a friendly wager between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Curiosity wins, Putin will send Obama an An-124 loaded with Russian Vodka. Should Chelabinsk prevail, Obama will send Putin a C-5A Galaxy's worth of poi from his native Hawaii.

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.roscosmos.ru

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