In a congratulatory phone call today to the NASA team behind Mars rover Curiosity, President Barack Obama pledged a strong focus on technology and science, as well as revealing his next possible hairdo.
Speaking to mission operation personnel who were in a control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Obama applauded their effort.
"We know you're all hard at work," the president said. "I just wanted to call and say congratulations to the entire team […] and all of JPL," he said, citing specific members of the crew and their position within the mission.
Obama said that he and his administration couldn't be more excited about what NASA has been doing, calling it "mind-boggling" what the agency has been able to accomplish.
Noting the focus his administration has put on improving science, technology, engineering, and math, the president called the Mars rover "incredibly impressive," telling the crowd that, "through your dedicated efforts, Curiosity stuck the landing and captured the attention and imagination of millions of people […] all around the world."
Those people include kids across the country, who may have been inspired by the Red Planet landing and are running to their parents with dreams of being an astronaut, maybe even the first person to walk on Mars, Obama said.
"That kind of inspiration is the by-product of the sort of work you have done," he said.
The Obama administration has its critics inside NASA, however, who were disappointed by budget cuts that tabled some of the space agency's efforts. Last year, NASA retired its space shuttle program to focus on deep-space exploration. NASA astronauts have since been hitching rides on Russian spacecraft to the International Space Station while NASA transitions to trips manned by commercial entities, like SpaceX.
Still, Obama praised the NASA team for being a shining example of what makes the human species so great: curiosity (no pun intended). The yearning to discovery, to know more, and to push the boundaries of knowledge, he said, are commendable traits.
In a nod toward viral sensation Bobak "Mohawk Guy" Ferdowski, Obama joked that he's thought about growing a Mohawk himself, "but my team keeps on discouraging me." He earned big laughs in the crowded room, but remained serious about the team's work.
The president ended his call with a simple "Congratulations and keep up the good work."
PCMag's Meredith Popolo was at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California last week covering the Curiosity rover's arrival on Mars. For more, see the slideshow above, which details her tour of JPL. Also check out 7 Minutes of Terror: Landing the Mars Curiosity Rover and How to Hack NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover.
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