Obama applauds Mars rover landing, touts government role in project

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"That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge," Obama said.

And the president, in a subtle nod to one of the central tenants of his campaign, argued that government spending like the Curiosity program was essential for the development of new technologies and industries.

"And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence — not just in space, but here on Earth — depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world," said Obama.

The rover touched down safely early Monday morning, and NASA scientists expect the craft to offer new insights into the possibility of Martian life during its two-year journey. The six-wheeled vehicle includes an onboard laboratory to analyze geological samples — some of which will be mined from below the Martian surface.

The president said he "eagerly await[ed] what Curiosity has yet to discover" and congratulated the employees of NASA for their "remarkable accomplishment."