PASADENA, Calif.–President Barack Obama today called the NASA team operating the Mars rover Curiosity, congratulating the Joint Propulsion Laboratory scientists and insisting on being notified without delay if they find Martians–“even if they’re just microbes.”

“You guys should be remarkably proud,” he said during his 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 5 after a 36-week, 154-million-mile journey capped by a highly complex but flawlessly executed landing sequence.

Its two-year $2.5 billion mission is to search for signs that Mars might have once had water and other conditions necessary to support life and could 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.”

Drawing laughter from the group, the president told the NASA scientists that if they make contact with Martians, “please let me know right away.” He said that while he has a lot on his plate, “I suspect that will go to the top of the list, even if they’re just microbes.”

NASA said Curiosity is now undergoing a “brain transplant” entailing an update of its software to prepare it to travel over the surface of the Red Planet and carry out lab experiments.