The president made the call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Monday morning, the White House said.
"What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit, and your passion and your commitment is making a difference," the president told Charles Elachi, the head of JPL, and the assembled science team listening in on the call.
The JPL science team successfully landed the rover Curiosity on the Martian surface last week and has since been releasing photos taken by the rover of its landing site and surroundings.
"And this is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country," the president said. "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."
The president made the call while aboard Air Force One en route to Nebraska.
He noted Curiosity's mission to determine if conditions are or have ever been amenable to life on the Red Planet.
"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," the president said to laughter from the assembled scientists. "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."
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