As is tradition after big American achievements or tragedies (such as, earlier this month, Michael Phelps' 19th Olympic medal and the Sikh community's tragic loss), President Obama reached out to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory this morning over telephone.
You'd think the big White House phone call could have upgraded to Skype technology by now, seeing as we just landed on Mars. But in the end, the crackly 1950s-era telephone reception and Godlike omnipresence of Obama's voice over the enraptured laboratory (video below) only amplified the sense of heart-warming and history-making in the room. “You guys should be remarkably proud,” said the president. “It's really what makes us best as a species…”
“… this Curiosity that we have.”
NASA live-streamed the congratulatory call on its website at 8 a.m., just hours after the world watched the U.S. take home more Olympic medals than any other country at the closing ceremony last night. (Really starting to think America's London sweep and Mars landing may have been not-so-accidentally aligned.)
“If in fact you do make contact with martians, please let me know right away,” joked Obama between his trademark stammers, some awkward silences and a self-promotional winning-the-future speech. “Because uh… 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.”
He also took the time to recognize Bobak Ferdowski, the Internet's all-time favorite land astronaut:
“I understand there's a special mohawk guy that's working on the mission?” said the president. “You know, he seems to have been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. And I in the past thought about getting a mohawk myself. My team keeps on discouraging me. 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.”
Obligatory giggles from the control room only egged him on.
“It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, dark-rimmed glasses and the pocketbook,” said Obama. “You guys are a little cooler than you used to be.”
Guess that's what you get when you set up a space center in artsy-fartsy Pasadena. Congratulations, dudes.