LOS ANGELES (AP) — Neil Armstrong inspired millions with his moonwalk. Can a feisty robotic rover exploring Mars do the same for another generation?
With manned missions beyond the International Space Station on hold, the spotlight has turned on machines.
The newest, the rover called Curiosity, last week beamed home photographs of its first wheel tracks on the Martian soil since its daredevil landing this month. While it did not rise to Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” interest was so high in the rover’s “seven minutes of terror” approach to the red planet that NASA’s website crashed.
“There’s something exciting about reaching another place in the solar system. If you think about the kind of interest the landing of Curiosity had, you get a sense of that,” said Smithsonian Institution space curator Roger Launius. It wasn’t on the same level as Armstrong’s feat, “but it was pretty darn exciting,” he said.
When Armstrong, then fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, stepped on the moon on July 29, 1969, an estimated 600 million people watched and listened. “Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us,” recalled Buzz Aldrin after Armstrong’s death on Saturday.