Last night, the Internet watched in collective anticipation as the Curiosity rover completed its harrowing descent onto the Martian surface. While news of the rover's safe arrival was cause for much celebration, many were preoccupied with a nagging question: who was that mohawked man?
Viewers of NASA's live coverage from inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory could not have missed Bobak Ferdowsi, the flight engineer who sat in the front row of NASA staff and sported a terrific mohawk. He'd further accentuated the hairstyle with red and blue streaks, and white stars on the short shorn scalp blow his majestic rising hair.
Those who watch NASA news carefully might have already anticipated Ferdowsi's hairdo. An article in the L.A. Times chronicling a few of the traditions of the mission control staff mentioned the debut of Ferdowsi's mohawk, writing that he changes it for each mission.
"The flight team voted on what the style should be for Curiosity and selected a theme of 'stars and stripes,'" wrote the Times. "So Bobak Ferdowsi, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, showed up to work Sunday with a red, white and blue mohawk, with stars on the side."
Within minutes of his appearance on the JPL livestream, Twitter began discussing his seemingly incongruous presence. After all, most people have an Apollo-era vision of NASA's control rooms, full of stern-faced men with crewcuts and vests.
"NASA Mohawk Guy has stolen my heart," wrote @katietiedrich. "You guys, there is a guy working at NASA who has a mohawk!" Tweeted @LindsayPavlas, adding, "PUNK SCIENCE!"
The satirical account Drunk Predator Drone (@drunkenpredator) quipped, "Thanks, @MarsCuriosity. Now my human co-pilot wants a mohawk."
It took a while, but Ferdowsi's actual identity slowly began to creep into the conversation. The Washington Post Twitter account pointed out that Ferdowsi was an avid Twitter user and directed followers to his account @tweetsoutloud. As of this morning, his Twitter account now has 16,024 followers.
As of writing, Ferdowsi has already had a BuzzFeed article written about him and there's at least one single-serving Tumblr account titled "NASA Needs More Mohawks." Redditors have already requested that he do an online question and answer session. Other Redditors have pointed out, however, that Ferdowsi is probably going to be too busy doing his job than to indulge his new fans right away.
For his part, Ferdowsi took his new found fame in stride and has remained focused on the MSL mission. Late last night, he Tweeted:
Internet, you win this round. I'll be back later, but thanks so much. Now going to celebrate with all my friends and team! #msl
— Bobak F. (@tweetsoutloud) August 6, 2012