PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
NASA Mohawk Guy is the nickname given to Bobak Ferdowsi, a NASA engineer and flight director of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission, who was seen sporting a stylish mohawk at the mission control center during the live coverage of the Mars landing of the Curiosity in August 2012.
At around 1:30 a.m. (ET) on August 6th, 2012, NASA’s first nuclear-powered Mars rover The Curiosity successfully made its landing on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater after more than nine months of journey since its launch in November 2011. Described as the most technologically advanced mission to Mars yet, the landing event was broadcast in real-time via television and livestream, garnering much attention from the news media as well as online communities and the tech news blogosphere.
While the tension remained high in NASA’s Mission Control center during the last minutes leading up to the safe landing of the Curiosity, one youthful staffer sporting a star-decorated mohawk cut captivated the attention of viewers at home.
The man wearing the mohawk was soon dubbed the “NASA Mohawk Guy” by the viewers, quickly leading to the creation of an image macro series on Memegenerator, various chatters about the man on Twitter and a dedicated single topic blog on Tumblr called NASA Needs More Mohawks. Meanwhile, Redditor submitted an image post of Ferdowsi’s screen capture from the livestream to the /r/ladyboner subreddit, where it gained more than 1,600 upvotes in less than 24 hours. The meme even spread to the highest levels of the American government, as shown when Barack Obama made a joke about while congratulating the launch team by phone.
I’ve in the past thought about getting a mohawk myself. My team keeps discouraging me," Obama said to laughter from the JPL team. “It does sound like NASA’s come a long way from the white shirts, dark-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors.”
The man was later identified as Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, whose Twitter follower count skyrocketed from 200 followers prior to the landing to nearly 20,000 followers in less than 12 hours after the broadcast. Following his rise to national spotlight, Ferdowsi made a cameo in an iPhone 5 parody video (shown below, left) and appeared in a celebrity bowling match with members of the Nerdist YouTube channel (shown below, right).
Ferdowsi quickly became aware of his memetic status and has since released several statements online about himself and his mohawk. At a panel discussion at his alma mater M.I.T in October 2012, Ferdowsi noted that he sees the virality of his photos as a positive thing, allowing him to be an ambassador for the 3000-person career that is NASA.
According to an article in The Atlantic he changes his hairstyle for every mission he is a part of, and the current hairstyle was voted on by the rest of his team. In August, he shaved the morse code for “JPL” into his hair as a tribute to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where the rover is being controlled.
Invitation to the Inaugural Parade
On January 15th, 2012, President Barack Obama’s inauguration committee announced that Ferdowsi, along with a handful of other NASA scientists, will attend the inaugural parade in Washington D.C. on January 21st. Ferdowsi confirmed their scheduled appearance with a full-scale model of the Curiosity rover as well as the next-generation Orion capsule, noting that he was excited to be granted this historic opportunity and would be sporting a surprise hairstyle for the occasion.
Slice of MIT – Alums “Mohawk Guy,” “Touchdown Guy” Discuss Mars Landing