When NASA's multi-billion-dollar Curiosity rover safely touched down on Mars' surface on Sunday, one quirky scientist in Mission Control unknowingly became an internet star. Meet NASA systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, whose star-spangled, mohawked looks quickly won over swooning female fans. But who is "Mohawk Guy," exactly? Here's what you need to know about NASA's super-smart heartthrob:
Who is he?
Ferdowsi is the Flight Director of the Mars Science Laboratory, which handles the Curiosity mission. When live cameras scanned NASA's control room during the terrifyingly risky landing, they lingered more than once on the unconventionally handsome engineer, who explodes the buttoned-up NASA stereotype established by films such as Apollo 13. Just a few days ago, the guy with the crazy hair and "immaculate bone structure" was a relatively unknown NASA employee, says Winona Dimeo-Ediger at The Frisky. "Today, he's America's dreamboat."
What's the deal with the hair?
Apparently, Ferdowsi sports a different hairdo for every new mission, and this particular cut was the crowdsourced choice of his NASA colleagues. "The hairdo, its empiric awesomeness aside, was also a visual symbol of the humanity at the core of NASA's achievements," says Megan Garber at The Atlantic. The space agency may be associated with coldly mechanical robots and rockets, but Ferdowsi's choice of 'do "served as a reminder of the individual people — the quirky people — who make all that progress possible."
How popular is he?
The so-called Mohawk Guy earned his place in the pantheon of internet memes when fans built him his own fan Tumblr: "F**k Yeah Bobak Ferdowsi." The blog already has well over 18,000 followers (and counting) and bears the slogan, "NASA Needs More Mohawks." Ferdowsi's Twitter account, @tweetsoutloud, went from 200 to 20,000 followers overnight, and he's already received more than one marriage proposal.
How is he handling his newfound fame?
Ferdowsi says he was unaware of his new renown until hours after the Curiosity landing took place. "I started looking at my phone and I'm seeing hundreds of emails and Facebook friend requests," he says. When asked about the hypnotic power his hairstyle holds over unsuspecting women, Ferdowsi says coyly, "If my mohawk gets a few people more excited about science and this mission, that's awesome. That's what it's all about."