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Amateur Paleontologist Finds Dinosaur Footprint Near Goddard Space Flight Center

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ)– The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may be in the “future” business, but at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, it also has a footprint in the distant past.

Alex DeMetrick reports the foot in question is a dinosaur’s.

When NASA sent its latest rover to Mars, it carried a critical chemistry lab designed and built at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. But the newest discovery was in their own backyard.

“And all of a sudden, I saw sticking out of the ground the edges of a footprint,” dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford said.

People walked right by it not knowing it’s the footprint of a dinosaur.

“You tend to ignore it,” Stanford said. “Most people have different search images. They don’t have dinosaur tracks on their mind.”

But Stanford does. An amateur paleontologist, he was visiting the NASA campus when he spotted it.

“And there it was, to much of my joy and amazement,” he said.

Easier to see the outline now? It’s prehistoric mud pushed up and frozen in time, quite probably by something that looked like a Nodosaur, named for the armor-like nodes or nobs on its body.

“This thing was very large and heavy,” Stanford said. “When it steps down into the mud, it oozes a squish-up, a squeeze-up around it and that’s exactly what happened here.”

Evidence of dinosaurs here is like finding Jurassic Park in Tomorrowland.

“We’re looking for life on Mars, and here, we are finding outrageous finds right here on our center,” NASA spokesman Alan Binstock said.

And while it takes nothing away from the current rover mission, which will look for evidence of extinct life on Mars, it is a nice cosmic twist.

“The juxtaposition? The idea that scientists are walking along here, unaware that there is a footprint right beside where they are walking, of something from 112 million years ago,” Stanford said.

Erosion from a heavy rain uncovered the footprint. NASA is keeping the site a secret until it decides what to do with the find.

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