August 13, 2012
Credit: Credit: White House
U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated NASA scientists on Monday for landing a rover on Mars, promising to keep up key space investments and jokingly asking if they could keep him posted on any contact with Martians.
In a phone call from Air Force One to the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Obama lauded their “incredible success” of having landed the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover on the Red Planet last week.
“Through your dedicated effort, Curiosity stuck her landing and captured the attention and imagination of millions of people,” he said, using the gymnastics term the day after the Olympic Games wrapped up in London.
“It’s really mind-boggling what you’ve been able to accomplish, and being able to get that whole landing sequence to work the way you did is a testimony to your team,” Obama said.
The science rover’s landing came as a welcome success for NASA, which has been beleaguered by science budget cuts and the cancellation of its 30-year-old space shuttle program.
Obama, who has made a focus on engineering, math and science the centerpiece of his education policy, did not specify funding plans, but offered NASA “a personal commitment to protect these critical investments in science and technology” and said the rover was set to prompt more work on and about Mars.
“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 said.
Curiosity has been called the first fully equipped mobile laboratory sent to another world. Its mission is to search for evidence that the planet most similar to Earth now harbors, or once hosted, the key ingredients necessary for the evolution of microbial life.