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.
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.
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.
"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.