Bobak Ferdowsi

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Bobak Ferdowsi
Ferdowsi at SpaceUp Houston in November 2012
Born (1979-11-07) November 7, 1979 (age 44)
EducationAmerican School in Japan
University of Washington (BSc)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MSc)
Engineering career
DisciplineFlight engineer
Employer(s)Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory

Bobak Ferdowsi (Persian: بابک فردوسی, pronounced [baːˈbæk feɾdoːˈsiː]; born November 7, 1979)[1] is a flight engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He served on the Cassini–Huygens and Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity missions.

Ferdowsi gained brief media fame in August 2012 when, sporting a distinct mohawk hairstyle, he was repeatedly visible on camera during the televised Curiosity landing. His appearance became an iconic image of the event with coverage in the news and social media; even President of the United States Barack Obama commented on the popularity of "Mohawk Guy".[2]

Life and career[edit]

Ferdowsi was born November 7, 1979, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] He is of Persian descent;[3] his father immigrated to the United States from Iran. His parents met in college.[4] He was inspired to work in the space sector by his high school teachers and his love of science fiction, including Star Trek and the works of Arthur C. Clarke.[5] Soon after birth he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he stayed until age 11, then moved to Tokyo in 1991, where he attended the American School in Japan, graduating in 1997.[1]

The same year, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he majored in aerospace engineering, a childhood dream.[1] While there he did research under Nobel Laureate Hans Georg Dehmelt in the Department of Physics.[1] In 2001, he enrolled at MIT and joined the Lean Aerospace Initiative where he stayed until 2003.[1][6]

Ferdowsi joined JPL in late 2003, and worked on the Mars Science Laboratory mission through its successful landing nearly nine years later on August 6, 2012.[7] He was a science planner on the Cassini–Huygens mission,[8] and is involved with the Europa Clipper as a systems engineer.[9]

As of 2018, Ferdowsi is Fault Protection lead on the NISAR joint Earth observation mission at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[10]

Media appearances and NASA advocacy[edit]

Ferdowsi observes Curiosity's successful landing on Mars.

Ferdowsi became a media sensation when, during the August 6, 2012 landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, he wore a mohawk hairstyle that was seen on NASA TV's live broadcast of the event.[11] He was seated in a prominent camera position and his mohawk unexpectedly became an iconic image of the landing.[12][13][14][15] Ferdowsi explained that he wore a new haircut for every mission and the mohawk was chosen by his team by popular vote.[16]

When President Barack Obama called to congratulate the team, he noted the popularity of the "Mohawk Guy", saying "it does seem NASA has come a long way from the white shirts, dark-rimmed glasses, and pocket protectors. You guys are a little cooler than you used to be."[17] Ferdowsi said in another interview that he did it to help lighten the seriousness of the workplace and "If my mohawk gets a few more people excited about science and this mission, that's awesome."[7]

Ferdowsi took part in the Second inauguration of Barack Obama in January 2013, marching in the parade alongside other NASA scientists and replicas of Curiosity and the Orion spacecraft, as part of the agency's official Presidential Inaugural Weekend.[18] Ferdowsi also took part in Obama's State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, where he was seated in First Lady Michelle Obama's box "to highlight President Barack Obama's call for more visas for skilled immigrants in the fields of math, science and engineering."[19]

Ferdowsi appeared on the sixth season of BattleBots as a sideline reporter.[20] Ferdowsi appeared in a cameo role in the 2015 television film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!. He is an advocate for the space sector and appears in several events that link arts and sciences.[21] He is active on social media, using Twitter to make the public more aware of the lighter side of science.[22] In 2024, Ferdowsi appeared as a fictional mission director in 3 Body Problem.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ferdowsi, Bobak (2003). Product Development Strategies in Evolutionary Acquisition (Thesis). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. p. 5. hdl:1721.1/82704. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  2. ^ Landau, Elizabeth (August 15, 2012). "Mars rover mission's 'Mohawk Guy' inspires Obama". CNN. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Miltner, Kate (August 8, 2012). "What made 'Nasa Mohawk Guy' such a successful meme?". The Guardian. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "NASA Mohawk Man, Bobak Ferdowsi, Talks Mars". The Huffington Post. August 10, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "Bobak Ferdowsi: Systems Engineer". NASA/Science Mission Directorate. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  6. ^ "Bobak Ferdowsi". LinkedIn. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Lazar, Shira (August 6, 2012). "Meet NASA's Mohawk Guy, Bobak Ferdowsi". What's Trending. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  8. ^ "Bobak Ferdowsi: Science Planner Engineer". NASA. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2012. See also YouTube version.
  9. ^ Sainato, Michael (December 14, 2015). "NASA 'Mohawk Guy' Looks for Life on Jupiter's Moon". Observer. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  10. ^ Memarian, Jahandad (October 17, 2017). "Bobak Ferdosi: We Are Far More Similar Than Different". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  11. ^ Miltner, Kate (August 8, 2012). "What made 'Nasa Mohawk Guy' such a successful meme?". The Guardian. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Meet Bobak Ferdowsi, NASA's Mohawked Engineer". The Wall Street Journal. August 7, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  13. ^ Bosch, Torie (August 6, 2012). "Forget the Nerdy Image: Mars Rover Curiosity Team Includes "Mohawk Guy" and Former Rock 'n' Roller". Slate. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Garber, Megan (August 6, 2012). "The Curiosity Landing Already Has a Meme: NASA's 'Mohawk Guy'". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  15. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!". NPR. July 6, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  16. ^ Khan, Amina (August 9, 2012). "Curiosity: Meet 'Mohawk Guy,' Mars mission's Internet sensation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  17. ^ "President Obama Calls to Congratulate Curiosity Team". NASA. August 13, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  18. ^ Kramer, Miriam (January 18, 2013). "NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' to March in Obama's Inaugural Parade". Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  19. ^ Felde, Kitty (February 11, 2013). "JPL's 'Mohawk Guy' to sit with First Lady at State of Union". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  20. ^ "Bobak Ferdowsi: Sideline Reporter". ABC. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  21. ^ Messier, Douglas (May 30, 2018). "Fizzy Beer and Exploding Heads: Actors Tell How 'The Expanse' Keeps It Real". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  22. ^ "JPL Engineer Breaks the Internet (Again) After Posting NASA Bathroom Sign on Twitter". Pasadena Now. November 13, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  23. ^ ""3 Body Problem" Wallfacer". IMDb. Retrieved March 29, 2024.

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