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By David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama today called the NASA team that landed a rover on Mars, singling out the colorfully coiffed engineer now known to the world as "Mohawk Guy."

"It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors," Obama told members of the Mars team based in Pasadena, California.

"You guys are a little cooler than you used to be," Obama said to laughter.

Obama did not identify "Mohawk guy" by name, but technician Bobak Ferdowsi has become famous for a hairstyle that includes red and black coloring as well as dye in the form of yellow stars.

The president also joked that, at one time, he "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."

Charles Elachi, executive director of the Jet Propulsion Team, replied to the president about the now-famous Mohawk: "That's going to be the new fashion at JPL."

In praising the overall mission of putting the camera-ready rover Curiosity on the Red Planet, Obama told the NASA team: "We could not be more excited about what you've been doing. ... It's really mind boggling."

Speaking via telephone, Obama also said: "What you have accomplished embodies the American experience."

While mired in a tough re-election race, Obama did make a special request of the Mars team.

"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," Obama said.

"I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list," he joked. "Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting."

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