They may not have had any direct involvement in the mission to Mars, but those who work at Stennis Space Center are excited about NASA's latest success. Some employees say times have been difficult for NASA since the shuttle explosion almost a year ago. On Monday, workers said they believe the Mars Rover provides a big boost for morale and the future of space exploration.
Three years ago, Richard Brown created a computer program for Stennis that focused on making people feel they're soaring the mountains and valleys of Mars. Where Brown's 3-D images end, he says the photos from NASA's Mars Rover will give us a better idea of just what it's like on the Red planet.
"They've actually already generated panoramas of the actually landing site," said Brown. That's where they've shot images around in a 360 degree panorama. You can actually already pull it up on your computer and it's like you're on the surface." (Click here to see the images Brown is talking about. )
Stennis officials say the excitement over the Mars Rover is spreading to more than just the people who work for NASA.
Deputy director David Throckmorton said "We found out this morning that in the 24 hours following the landing of the Mars Surveyor that our website dedicated to this mission had over a million hits in one day alone. The agency's website has seen multiple billion hits in the last four days. Clearly the public is interested in what we're doing here."
Those involved with space exploration say the good news from Mars comes at a good time for NASA.
Brown said "This is real exciting because after the shuttle and the loss of lives, people feel down about it and not as excited about space exploration. There are questions that come up about whether that's necessary or not, and I believe absolutely it is necessary because that's just man's nature to want to explore."
Brown says inspiring interest in space exploration will ensure a new generation of scientists and astronauts. NASA hasn't abandoned its manned flight program. Stennis deputy director David Throckmorton says if all goes well there will be another shuttle launch this fall.