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Babak Ferdowsi

Written by Frank Devlon. Posted in Successful Iranians

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Babak (Bobak) Ferdowsi
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Flight Director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

Significant projects:
- Cassini–Huygens.
- Mars Science Laboratory.
- Curiosity rover cruise mission phase to Mars.
- Subsequent  surface science mission.
Science Planner on the Cassini–Huygens mission.

Born: November 7, 1979 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of partial Persian (Iranian descent).


When the Higgs Boson particle was discovered, the fact that CERN had decided to use the Comic Sans font to make the announcement threatened to overshadow the whole historic occasion. The same things nearly happened today following the landing on Mars by Nasa's Curiosity rover - with Nasa lead Bobak Ferdowsi becoming an internet sensation as viewers grew captivated by his red-tinged mohawk haircut, the the yellow stars dyed above his ears, and his big beaming smile following a successful day.

Bobak Ferdowsi is an American Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He served as Flight Director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover cruise mission phase, and subsequent surface science mission. 

Along with tweets about his feelings following the successful launch, for which he was 'activity lead', Bobak acknowledged his new-found fame, and, as perhaps one of the many rituals that surrounds Nasa launches and missions, said he changes his hair for every mission.

Ferdowsi gained brief media notoriety in August 2012, when he wore an unusual mohawk hairstyle during the Curiosity landing. It unexpectedly became an iconic image of the event with coverage in the news and Twitter.

U.S. President Obama even commented on the popularity of "Mohawk Guy."

Ferdowsi was born November 7, 1979, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is of partial Persian descent.  His father is from Iran and his mother was raised in Mississippi. The two met in college.

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.

The same year, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he majored in aerospace engineering, a childhood dream. While there he did research under Nobel Laureate Hans Dehmelt in the Department of Physics.

In 2001, he enrolled at MIT and joined the Lean Aerospace Initiative where he stayed until 2003. 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.

He was also Science Planner on the Cassini–Huygens mission. Ferdowsi became a media "sensation", or "meme", when during the August 6, 2012, landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, he wore an unusual mohawk hairstyle that was seen on NASA TV's live broadcast of the event. As the Flight Director he was in a prominent camera position and his mohawk unexpectedly became an iconic image of the landing.

Ferdowsi explained that he wore a new haircut for every mission and the mohawk was chosen by his team by popular vote. When President Barack Obama called to congratulate the team, he noted the popularity of the "Mohawk Guy," saying "You guys are a little cooler than you used to be.

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."

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