Keeping Space Enthusiasm Going Strong

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With the successful landing of a rover for the Mars Science Laboratory mission and Curiosity now online for nearly a month, Americans are increasingly interested in space exploration.

According to a recent poll by Rasmussen reports, some 36 percent of Americans believe the “current goals of the space program should including sending to Mars.”

The recent death of Neil Armstong, a reluctant hero of the program who was the first man to walk on the moon, has also offered a solemn reminder of what was once possible during the golden age of NASA.

PHOTOS: When Discovery News Met Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’

With rover landings and rocket launches so few and far between these days, here are some ways to explore space on your own.

Follow Curiosity’s Footsteps

If the rover landing is what (re)ignited your interest in space exploration, remember: The landing was just the start of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover is expected to carry out its exploration of the Martian surface for at least four years.

During that time, the rover will relay photos from Mars, search for signs of microbial life, determine the planet’s habitability and more. In addition to reading Discovery News to stay up on the latest, you can also follow the Curiosity rover on Twitter @MarsCuriosity. More than 1 million users already have.

WIDE ANGLE: Mars Rover Curiosity Has Landed

Fun and Games

Although NASA has successfully landed three rovers on the surface of Mars, humans won’t set foot on Mars for many decades to come. A Mars mission might not be on the horizon anytime soon, but the dream of a journey to the Red Planet has gone on for generations.

Launched Friday on Kickstarter, “Mars Needs Mechanics” is a new board game set nearly 100 years before men first walked on the moon. “The game is an imagining, from a 19th century British point of view, about what might be required to launch a mission to mars, and what they might need to bring with them if they made it,” creator Ben Rosset told Discovery News.

The object of the game is to compete against other players in order to collect cogs, which are used as currency, to build ship mechanisms, which in turn earn more cogs. The player with the most at the end wins.

Calling All Citizen Scientists

You don’t need to be enrolled in a graduate-level physics program to make contributions to original scientific research. Citizen science opportunities offer even the most novice space enthusiast with the chance for discovery.

Galaxy Zoo is one such project in which users help classify the hundreds of thousands of images of galaxies within the archives of the Hubble Space Telescope. If you’re one of the many out there who just can’t get enough of Hubble’s images, this gives you the chance to not only dive into Hubble’s history, but also possibly make a bit of your own.

Amateur Astronomy

If you want to take a closer look at the stars on your own and can’t afford to launch a multi-billion-dollar suborbital telescrope, all you need is a good pair of binoculars and clear skies. In fact, you might even be able to discover a dwarf galaxy from your own backyard.

Discovery News’ Mark Thompson also has tips on how amateur astronomers can acclimate themselves with their cosmic neighborhood, from searching for asteroids to catching a meteor shower.

Photo credit: NASA (top photo); Nevermore Games (bottom photo)

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