So, how awesome was the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars last night? As incredible as it was to watch space exploration happening live, we must admit we were a bit distracted–along with the rest of the nation–by a certain technician in the control room with a mohawk and immaculate bone structure. Turns out his name is Bobak Ferdowsi, and he’s the Flight Director on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission. Yesterday, he was a relatively unknown NASA employee; today he’s America’s dreamboat. So let’s get to know Mr. Ferdowsi a bit better, shall we? After the jump, five Mohawk Guy facts you should know…
1. He cuts his hair differently for every mission. Apparently the mohawk with colorful stars was designed specifically for the Curiosity, and chosen by a Mission Control vote due to the fact that it was both cosmic and patriotic.
2. He spent the day before the Curiosity launch shopping at Anthropologie. The rocket carrying the Curiosity rover actually launched way back on November 26th, 2011 (damn, the commute to Mars is rough). Upon launch, Ferdowsi tweeted, “It still amazes me that humans can send things to other planets!” The day before, he livetweeted his experience standing in line at Anthropologie, and seemed almost as excited to score a bargain on home decor: “Mission accomplished! Got some napkins for 2 dollars each.”
3. He became a celebrity literally overnight. Before the Mars landing broadcast, Ferdowsi’s Twitter feed had less than 200 followers. Today he has over 18,000, plus a Tumblr fan page aptly titled, “NASA Needs More Mohawks.”
4. He’s a Trekkie. One of the best perks of working at NASA, as Ferdowsi discovered in July, is that sometimes William Shatner comes to visit your office. Ferdowsi tweeted a photo of Captain Kirk addressing a table of NASA employees along with the caption, “I just had a Shatnergasm.”
5. His playful personality and trendy haircut may save the space program. Due to massive budget cuts and general lack of interest, NASA has lost its sheen in recent years. Many young people see the organization as a stodgy, dusty relic of our parent’s generation, but last night, Ferdowsi became a face of NASA we can relate to: a young, hip, nerdy dude who was genuinely excited about his work. As Megan Garber of The Atlantic put it, “We may associate the agency with rockets and robots and missions to places that are distinctly inhuman; Ferdowsi’s mohawk, though, served as a reminder of the individual people — the quirky people — who make all that progress possible.” Who knows, Ferdowsi’s eye-catching haircut might have caught the eye of the next wave of NASA technicians who will put astronauts on Mars and push the boundaries of everything we thought we knew about our universe.