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Soviet Mars spacecraft possibly spotted in photos

Caption
(HOPD)
This image released by NASA shows a set of pictures taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing what may be parts of a Soviet spacecraft that landed on Mars in 1971. Scientists say more work is needed to confirm that it is hardware from the Mars 3 lander. The spacecraft transmitted for 14.5 seconds on the Martian surface. (AP Photo/NASA)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space fans from Russia have spotted what may be parts from a spacecraft that the Soviet Union landed on Mars in 1971.

Poring through images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the citizen scientists point to what could be the Mars 3 lander along with its parachute, heat shield and other hardware.

The lander operated for only 15 seconds on the Martian surface before it suddenly stopped communicating.

NASA said in a statement Thursday that more follow-up is needed to confirm the images are actually that of the Soviet lander and not natural geologic features.

During the Curiosity rover's landing last year, the reconnaissance orbiter was able to locate its parachute, rocket stage and cables that were cast away as the car-size vehicle touched down inside an ancient crater.

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