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Can Mars rover inspire?

LOS ANGELES -- 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, beamed home photographs last week 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.

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.

Yesterday, NASA played a recording from Administrator Charles Bolden that had been sent up to the rover on Mars and relayed back to Earth. In it, he thanked scientists and engineers for their achievement.

David Lavery of NASA headquarters said the hope is that someone will be inspired by Bolden's message and become the first human to stand on Mars. -- AP

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