Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


President Obama congratulates Mars rover team (+video)

The team that successfully landed the one-ton Curiosity Mars rover on the Red Planet last week got a congratulatory phone call from the President. 

By Associated Press / August 13, 2012

NASA engineers look at image sets from NASA's Curiosity rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Surface Mission Support Area, SMSA NASA's JPL in Pasadena, Calif.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Enlarge

Aboard Air Force One

Hailing NASA's "mind-boggling" Mars landing of the Curiosity rover, President Barack Obama urged the scientists operating the craft on Monday to phone home immediately if they find any extra-terrestrials.

Skip to next paragraph
President Barack Obama says last week's landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars was an 'amazing' accomplishment. In a call to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he told NASA scientists to let him know if the craft happens to see any Martians.

"If in fact you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," Obama told controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting."

Obama spoke by phone from Air Force One as he flew to a campaign stop in the state of Iowa eight days after the car-sized rover landed on the Martian surface. The touchdown followed a complex series of maneuvers involving intricately timed rocket firings, a huge parachute and cables lowering the craft to the Mars surface.

The two-year, $2.5 billion Curiosity mission includes looking for environmental conditions that might have given rise to life. However, as high-tech as it is, the nuclear-powered rover doesn't have the tools needed to detect living or fossil microorganisms. Instead, the rover will hunt for life's chemical building blocks.

"Curiosity stuck her landing and captured the attention and the imagination of millions of people not just across our country but people all around the world," Obama told the controllers, many of whom remained at their consoles. "It's really mind-boggling what you've been able to accomplish."

About to begin a three-day bus tour in Iowa, Obama couldn't resist a political point — vowing to resist efforts to cut spending on basic science. "I'm going to give you guys a personal commitment to protect these critical investments," he said.

He also couldn't resist teasing Bobak Ferdowski, the flight director for JPL's Mars Science Laboratory, whose cool demeanor and Mohawk hairstyle made him an overnight Internet sensation after Curiosity's landing.

"I've in the past thought about getting a Mohawk myself. My team keeps discouraging me," Obama said to laughter from the JPL team. "It does sound like NASA's come a long way from the white shirts, dark-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors."

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!