US President Barack Obama praises NASA’s Curiosity rover team

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US President Barack Obama chats with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover team aboard Air Force One during a flight to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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US President Barack Obama has told the flight control team for US space agency NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover that Curiosity’s landing on Mars advances his goals of improving education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"This is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country," Obama said when he called the mission control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, yesterday.

"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."

Obama, who also told the team, “you made us all proud”, congratulated JPL director Charles Elachi and the Mars Science Laboratory team operating the rover, which landed on the red planet last week.

"What you’ve accomplished embodies the American spirit," said Obama.

"Our expectation is that Curiosity is going to be telling us things 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 Mars."

Elachi thanked Obama for the call and added, "Hopefully we inspire some of the millions of young people who were watching the landing."

Obama said, "You guys should be remarkably proud. Really what makes us best as a species is this curiosity we have – this yearning to discover and know more and push the boundaries of knowledge."

Curiosity‘s work on Mars

The rover team has completed three of the four days of activities needed for transitioning Curiosity‘s two main computers from landing software to a version of software suited for the rover’s work on the surface of Mars.

The surface work will include driving and using a drill and scoop on the end of Curiosity‘s robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieving and parceling out these samples into the rover’s analytical laboratory instruments, NASA said. 

But first, there will be a few weeks of initial checkouts and observations to assess equipment on Curiosity and characteristics of the landing site, to begin in about a week, said Curiosity mission manager Art Thompson.

Mount Sharp on Mars

Mount Sharp on Mars’ horizon. This is a portion of the first colour 360-degree panorama from NASA’s Curiosity rover, made up of thumbnails, which are small copies of higher-resolution images. Image by NASA

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Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com