A jovial President Barack Obama on Monday
congratulated the team that put the newest rover, Curiosity, on Mars
- and admitted he coveted the hairstyle of one of the ground crew.
"I just wanted to call and say congratulations," Obama said in the exchange broadcast live on the internet. "You guys have done an outstanding job and you made us all proud. You are examples of American expertise in science and engineering."
He spoke for about five minutes with dozens of the NASA Mars team based in Pasadena, California, singling out one of them, Bobak Ferdowsi, who became an internet star overnight when space fans saw his Mohawk hairstyle.
Ferdowsi has received hundreds of marriage offers from fans who watched him concentrating on his computer as Curiosity was lowered to the Mars surface in a pioneering, tricky use of rockets and cables last Monday.
Ferdowsi's head sprouts a narrow crop of hair from front to back, named after the traditional style of the Mohawk Indians. It is also dyed blue and red. The sides are closely cut, with star shapes shaved into them to replicate the US flag.
"I understand there is a special Mohawk guy that is working on the mission," Obama said. "I have in the past thought about a Mohawk myself but my team has been discouraging me."
Obama added that he may "have to reconsider this" after hearing about all the marriage proposals Ferdowsi got.
In the phone call, Obama also thanked other countries, including Germany, that contributed to the mission.
Obama said he anxiously awaited news of Curiosity's discoveries as it looks for microbes and other forms of life on the red planet.
"If you do make contact with Martians - please let me know right away. I have a lot on my plate but that would go up the top of my list. Even if they are just microbes that will be pretty exciting," the president said.
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