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French Mars Probe Surrenders (G)

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Robotic Arm Extends White Flag

The French space program took a significant step backward today as the European Space Agency announced that a much-heralded French Mars probe surrendered just moments after landing on the red planet.

The probe, which had been expected to travel extensively across the surface of Mars to collect and analyze rock samples, stunned the French nation by surrendering only eight seconds into its mission.

As millions of astonished Frenchmen watched on national TV, the probe extended a robotic arm -- designed to scoop up rocks from the surface of Mars - and raised a white flag aloft, waving it back and forth.

The probe then used a robotic shovel to dig a hole in the Martian surface before disappearing into the hole, apparently hiding.

At a press conference in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac denied that the probe had surrendered, arguing, "This mission was always intended to be eight seconds long. The probe has performed courageously and superbly."

Despite earlier announced plans for the French Mars probe to exchange information about the surface of Mars with the American Mars probes, Mr. Chirac said, "The Americans will have to go it alone."

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