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'Astounding' Mars rover landing inspired world, Biden says in call to NASA

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President Joe Biden congratulates the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team on the Mars rover Perseverance's Feb. 8 landing, during a virtual call from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
President Joe Biden congratulates the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team on the Mars rover Perseverance's Feb. 8 landing, during a virtual call from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., March 4 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden called NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday to congratulate staff on last month's Mars rover Perseverance landing, which he said inspired the world during a difficult time.

The call included thousands of JPL employees, JPL Director Michael Watkins and Swati Mohan, an operations lead for the Feb. 8 landing.

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Biden made the call just after 5 p.m. EST while sitting at a table in the Roosevelt Room, a meeting room in the White House.

"It's astounding what you did," Biden said as he opened the conversation.

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He drew comparisons between the science and technology behind the landing of Perseverance -- the most sophisticated Mars rover ever -- and the science needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You should take such great pride," Biden said. "We can land a rover on Mars. We can beat a pandemic. With science, hope and vision, there's not a damn thing we can't do as a country."

Biden mentioned a lunar sample rock that he had installed on a shelf in the Oval Office. He said visitors from Congress recently remarked about the rock.

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"And I jokingly said, 'You ain't seen nothing yet. Wait 'til you see what we bring home from Mars,'" Biden said during the call.

His comment about bringing home something from Mars was an apparent reference to the Perseverance rover's ultimate mission, which is to drill rock samples where conditions to support life may have existed in an ancient Martian lake bed.

The rover will leave those samples on the Red Planet's surface, that eventually are to be launched into Mars orbit by a future rover mission. A NASA spacecraft would retrieve them and return them to Earth -- possibly in the early 2030s.

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Dispatches from Mars: Perseverance rover sends images

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, using its Mastcam-Z camera system, captured this view of the Martian sunset on November 9, 2021, the 257th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Martian sunsets typically stand out for their distinctive blue color as fine dust in the atmosphere permits blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than colors with longer wavelengths. But this sunset looks different: Less dust in the atmosphere resulted in a more muted color than average. The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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