President Barack Obama phoned Monday, congratulating the Curiosity Mars rover team for its "dedicated efforts'' and "incredible success.''
During the approximately seven-minute call, the president told the room full of engineers that successfully landing the rover on the Red Planet embodies the American spirit.
"Through your dedicated efforts, Curiosity stuck the landing and caputured the attention and imagination of millions of people - not just people across our country, but all around the world,'' Obama said.
"What you did on Mars was incredibly impressive,'' he said, noting the 76 pyrotechnics and 500,000 lines of code that were involved in the landing sequence.
Joking that scientists and engineers have come a long way since flat tops and pocket protectors, Obama said, "You guys are a little cooler than you used to be,'' referencing flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, whose popularity exploded on the Internet after he rocked a star-studded mohawk during the landing.
Obama pointed out that is the kind of thing that inspires kids to tell their moms and dads they want to become engineers and scientists, and possibly even strive to be the first person to walk on Mars, he said.
The president's call comes a week after Curiosity landed on the Red Planet. The rover carries the most advanced science payload ever used on Mars' surface, according to JPL. During the next two years, it will use its 10 instruments to investigate whether life has existed there.
Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled at JPL, which also is where the rover's mission control is located.