It's 11:21pm and I'm sitting in the media room at NASA JPL, watching the first post-landing press conference. When the team walked in, the room erupted into a prolonged round of applause. Rock stars have nothing on these guys!
JPL Director Dr. Charles Elachi kicked off the conference by telling us how about an hour and a half before landing, he went outside, looked up at the sky, saw Mars and said, "You're going to have a visitor soon."
Charlie Bolden then introduced John Holdren, the President's Science Advisor, who talked about the USA's dominance in space exploration. He said, "Even the longest of odds are no match for America's technical acumen and gusty determination," and then added that if anyone has been harboring doubts about the status of the USA's leadership in space exploration, there's a big ol' rover sitting on the surface of Mars that should quell those thoughts ("big ol' rover" would be my terminology, not his). He said the administration is committed to a strategy of Martian exploration and interplanetary exploration, and ended with "Long live American Curiosity!
Dr. Elachi that the landing is an "Amazing demonstration of what we can do!...Next week and next month and next year, we'll be bringing new discoveries to all of you. We're going to continue exploring not only Mars, but the solar system and the universe - because our Curiosity knows no limits."
John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, refuted the idea that the US space program is on the decline. "There are many out there who say NASA doesn't know how to explore and that we've lost our moxie. We know how to explore, and WE'RE ON MARS! While we welcome international collaboration, this is something only the US could do...and the rover is Made in the USA."
At this point, I started live tweeting the group's comments, so check out @tamarakrinsky for more great quotes from the night. Over the next few days, I'll be downloading pics and posting moments from the last three days at JPL. A huge thanks to the NASA Social team for having me as part of their program. The experience of being at mission control when a happy landing was confirmed is something I'll never forget.