Members of the Mars Science Laboratory team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) received a special call from President Barack Obama Monday morning.
"I just wanted to call and say congratulations to the entire Mars Science Laboratory team and really all of JPL on last Monday's incredible success," he said. "Through your dedicated efforts, Curiosity stuck her landing and captured the attention and imagination of millions of people—not just across our country but people all around the world."
During his call, President Obama described the rover team's work as "incredibly impressive," mentioning the "76 pyrotechnics going off in perfect succession, and the 500,000 lines of code working exactly the way you guys had ordered them."
He gave special recognition to JPL director Charles Elachi, as well as several mission managers and the seven international partners working on the mission. He even mentioned the "mohawk guy" (Bobak Ferdowsi), joking that he had considered the hairdo himself but that his team had discouraged him from trying it.
That wasn't the only moment of jest during the call. Early on, President Obama mentioned that he had been asked if the rover, Curiosity, had found any Martians yet. He responded that we needed to give the team some time. Near the end of his call, he said "I'm going to give you guys a personal commitment to protect these critical investments in science and technology. I thank you for devoting your lives to this cause. And if, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away, because 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."
In all seriousness, the president told the team, "What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit. And your passion and your commitment is making a difference, and your hard work is now paying dividends because our expectation is that Curiosity is going to be telling us things that we did not know before and laying the groundwork for an even more audacious undertaking in the future, and that's a human mission to the Red Planet."
He ended the call by noting, "what makes us best as a species is the curiosity that we have and this yearning to discover and know more and push the boundaries of knowledge. You are perfect examples of that, and we couldn't be more grateful to you. So congratulations; keep up the good work."
For more, read JPL's release about the call.
Written by Kimm Fesenmaier