The Washington Post

President Obama to NASA Mars Curiosity rover team: Let me know ASAP if you find any Martians

President Obama arrives at at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. on Aug. 13, 2012. (Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

The president has a message for the Mars rover team at JPL: If you find Martians, let me know.

The president aboard Air Force One Monday let the team know during a phone call with assembled members of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team. He congratulated the crew for successfully landing the rover Curiosity on the Martian surface.

This image released by NASA Aug. 9, 2012 shows a view of the surface of Mars captured by the rover Curiosity. (HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Later in the call, the president made clear his desire to know ASAP if the team encountered Martian life — no matter how small, “If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away,” said the president to laughter. “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.”

“I understand there’s a special Mohawk Guy that’s working on the mission. He’s been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night,” said the president in reference to the viral sensation created by mission controller Bobak Ferdowsi, who sported a mohawk in mission control. “I, in the past, thought about getting a Mohawk myself, but my team keeps on discouraging me. And now that he’s received marriage proposals and thousands of new Twitter followers, I think that I'm going to go back to my team and see if it makes sense.”

“That's going to be the new fashion at JPL,” said JPL director Charles Elachi in response.

This image released by NASA Aug. 9, 2012 shows a view taken by Mastcam aboard the Mars rover Curiosity. (HO/AFP/Getty Images)

“It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors,” said Obama, “You guys are a little cooler than you used to be.”

The president went on to congratulate the crew not only for their scientific accomplishments and the breakthroughs that made it possible, but for the inspiration the mission’s success provided to America’s youth. “This is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country.  They’re telling their moms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission — maybe even the first person to walk on Mars,” said Obama.

The president wrapped up the call reiterating his congratulations and thanks for “devoting your lives to this cause.”

“Really what makes us best as a species is this curiosity that we have and this yearning to discover and know more, and push the boundaries of knowledge,” the President said, “And you are perfect examples of that, and we couldn’t be more grateful to you.”

View Photo Gallery: NASA’s rover Curiosity touched down deep in a Martian crater early Monday after a picture-perfect descent and landing, beginning what promises to be one of the most ambitious planetary missions in history.

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Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.



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