Obama to Curiosity Team: I Will Protect Critical Investments in Science and Technology-update
UPDATE: A link to a Ustream video of the call has been added in the last sentence of the second paragraph and two more countries were added to the list of international partners in the fourth paragraph. The President listed all of them; we missed the first and last in the live broadcast.
President Obama told Mars Curiosity team members at the Jet Propulsion Lab this morning that "I will protect these critical investments in science and technology."
He did not explicitly say he would protect funding for NASA or planetary exploration, but his enthusiasm for the Curiosity mission was palpable. His FY2013 budget request, however, cut NASA's planetary exploration budget by 20 percent and forced NASA to withdraw from a series of planned Mars missions with the European Space Agency (ESA) that were intended to lead eventually to returning a sample of Mars to Earth. Obama did say that Curiosity would "lay the groundwork for more amazing things" like human missions to Mars.
Obama thanked several team members by name -- Adam Steltzner, Peter Theisinger, Richard Cook, and John Grotzinger -- as well as JPL Director Charles Elachi and NASA Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld. The president joked that if NASA makes contacts with Martians "please let me know." Though he has many things on his plate, he said he was sure that would rise to the top. Even if it is only microbes, "that would be pretty exciting."
He also thanked the international partners on the Curiosity mission, which include Spain, Russia, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy and Australia.
Obama also joked about "Mohawk Man" Bobak Ferdowsi's haircut and said he'd thought about getting one himself.
Ferdowsi and Steltzner were on NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me program this weekend where Steltzer said he is now out of a job.
Editor's note: the spelling of Mr. Steltzner's name has been corrected.
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