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This paper describes the operations of the 5 degree-of-freedom instrument deployment device (IDD), a dexterous robotic manipulator on the Mars Exploration Rovers, spirit and opportunity. The unprecedented flawless operations of the IDD enabled precise and reliable placement of at least 3 in situ instruments in sequential order on a designated target position on Martian rock/soil any time during the Martian diurnal cycle (day or night). These placements demonstrated a repeatability of ∼1 mm in position and ∼1 degree in orientation. This operations breakthrough is underappreciated, but it alone enabled the scientist to characterize a wide range of rocks and soils in a timely manner in the hunt for geological clues that revealed that the planet was once rich in water. In this paper we describe the IDD planning and command sequence generation process used to place and hold in situ instruments directly against rock and soil targets of interest within the IDD work volume.