Curiosity lands on Mars

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HOUSTON - Much like Punxsutawney Phil, NASA's newest rover, Curiosity, stuck its head out Monday morning and saw its shadow on the surface of Mars. 

Instead of six more weeks of winter, this shadow means two more years of Martian exploration.

"It shows NASA at Space Center Houston is on the cutting edge," Space Center Houston Director of Education Dr. Melanie Johnson said. "There's a lot of future with exploration, and it shows that our country is still at the forefront." 

That's extremely important, scientists said, for mankind to step out of the Galactic dark ages.

"For a long time people thought the Earth was flat, and we find out that it wasn't," NASA mission planner John Connolly said. "Then we thought the Earth was the center of the universe, and we find out that it wasn't. Many people think that life is only here on this planet, and maybe we're on the cusp of finding out that maybe that's not true."

If those discoveries are to happen, they'll begin Monday when NASA expects to see images of Curiosity's landing spot. 

"Then in about a week we start the rover moving," Connolly said.  "And we start the full complement of science over the next 687 days."

Monday morning's historic landing was not only a success for NASA, but for officials at Space Center Houston, where a large watch party was held to witness Curiosity's first transmission for the surface of Mars.

"It was amazing," Johnson said. "Yesterday we expected about 200 people. We got about 1,517 and we expect to see a bump in attendance. I think that at this time, I guess during the Olympics, there's this Patriotism and people are excited about moving forward."

"I just thought it was a great advancement in science in that we can still continue to prevail so that we can have a great better tomorrow," 12 year-old Jamie Kitchens said. 

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