Among those enthralled last week by NASA's landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars was President Barack Obama, apparently.
To show his support, President Obama will call members of the mission control team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., today (Aug. 13) at 11 a.m. EDT (8 a.m. PDT). Scientists at JPL designed and built the car-size Curiosity, and will direct its two-year mission on the Red Planet.
Curiosity, the centerpiece of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory project, landed on Sunday, Aug. 5 (PDT) after an eight-month space voyage. The rover will explore Mars' Gale Crater looking for clues to whether the Red Planet may have ever had the conditions necessary to host life. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments inside its 1-ton body that are designed to analyze the chemistry and geology of Gale Crater.
"The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future," President Obama said in a statement after the rover's touchdown. "It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination."
President Obama has outlined a plan for U.S. space exploration that envisions astronauts riding to Earth orbit on spacecraft built by commercial American companies, while NASA directs its efforts toward building a new rocket and capsule to carry people to an asteroid and Mars.
"Tonight's success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world," the president said in his statement. "I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover."
Audio of President Obama's call to JPL will be broadcast live on NASA TV here: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv