NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars last month

By Virginia Chamlee
March 04, 2021 07:17 PM
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Joe Biden

President Joe Biden had a virtual call with members of NASA on Thursday afternoon, congratulating them for their historic landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars last month.

"What you did, you restored a dose of confidence in the American people," Biden told the assembled agency leaders, whom he was speaking with virtually from the White House. "They were beginning to wonder about us. They were beginning to wonder — are we still the country we always believed we were? You guys did it."

"It's astounding what you did," the president, 78, said.

"We can land a rover on Mars, we can beat a pandemic and with science, hope and vision, there's not a damn thing we can't do as a country," Biden said.

In particular, the president also praised NASA's Swati Mohan, who immigrated to the U.S. from India as a child and who was the guidance and controls operations lead for the Mars mission.

"One of the reasons why we're such an incredible country is we're such a diverse country," he said.

NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet in February to look for signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth, according to NASA.

The rover also captured never-before-seen views of the planet's surface, which it shared on social media.

"Hello, world. My first look at my forever home. #CountdownToMars," the rover said in the first of two tweets, which included two black-and-white photos of Mars' surface, the first ever captured from the Jezero Crater. "And another look behind me. Welcome to Jezero Crater."

The images showed the dusty, rocky surface of Mars, and featured the unmanned rover's shadow looming in the forefront.

Roughly one hour after Perseverance landed at 3:55 p.m. on Feb. 18, NASA's acting chief, Steve Jurczyk, got a surprise phone call from the president.

"His first words were 'Congratulations, man,' and I knew it was him," Jurczyk told Space.com of the call. "He talked about how proud he was of what we had accomplished."

Biden also told Jurczyk to "send his regards to Percy." 

Later that day, Biden tweeted his congratulations for the space agency and the team behind Perseverance for its work on the mission.

"Congratulations to NASA and everyone whose hard work made Perseverance's historic landing possible," Biden wrote. "Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility."

Since landing, the rover has been "doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work," according to a tweet on Wednesday.

"I've checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving," the NASA Perseverance account wrote. "Warming up for a marathon of science."