LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE ( — President Barack Obama says he wants to be notified without delay if the Mars rover Curiosity finds Martians – “even if they’re just microbes.”

The president called Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and researchers Monday to congratulate them on the rover’s progress.

“You guys should be remarkably proud,” he said during the call. “It’s really what makes us best as a species…this curiosity we have and this yearning to discover and know more and push the boundaries of knowledge. You are perfect examples of that and we couldn’t be more grateful to you.”

The rover touched down on Mars after a 36-week, 154-million-mile journey capped by a highly complex but well-executed landing sequence. During its two-year, $2.5 billion mission, Curiosity will search for signs that Mars might have once had water and other conditions necessary to support life. It will also be used to determine if the planet might be able to support life in the future.

“Through your dedicated efforts, Curiosity stuck the landing and captured the imagination and attention of millions of people, not just around the country, but people all around the world,” Obama said. “It’s really mind-boggling what you’ve been able to accomplish.”

The president told the NASA scientists to “please let me know right away” if contact is made with Martians. As the group laughed, he said that he has a lot on his plate but, “I suspect that will go to the top of the list, even if they’re just microbes.”

NASA says Curiosity is now undergoing a “brain transplant” to update its software in preparation for lab experiments and travel across the planet.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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