"If in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," Obama told the scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He was referring to NASA's science rover Curiosity that ended an amazing eight-and-half-month-long journey by reaching the Red Planet on Aug 6.
"I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting," Obama, who was on board Air Force One, said.
The rover that was launched from Cape Canaveral on Nov 26 last year will closely analyse the chemical composition of the Martian soil in the coming months.
Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory as it is called, is part of an ambitious project whose total cost is 2.5 billion dollars. The rover traversed a staggering 563 million kilometres before touching down as planned inside the Gale crater on Mars.
Describing the feat as "mind-boggling", Obama noted that the rover "stuck her landing and captured the attention and imagination of millions of people not just across our country, but people all around the world."
Hailing the scientists who manoeuvred Curiosity expertly, he said, "You've made NASA proud. You guys are examples of American know-how and ingenuity, and it's really an amasing accomplishment." The president promised the scientists that his administration will continue to invest in science and technology.
Joking about the hair style of NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, Obama quipped, "I understand there's a special Mohawk Guy that's working on the mission. He's been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. And I, in the past, thought about getting a Mohawk myself but my team keeps on discouraging me. And 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."