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Former Husky becomes overnight sensation for Mars mission


UW grad Bobak Ferdowsi’s hair has gotten almost as much attention as the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover (AP)

Few people knew about Bobak Ferdowsi before Sunday night’s
highly watched landing of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover.
Now, the University of Washington grad is an overnight
star, thanks as much to his hair as his accomplishments.

The former Husky took center stage as the
mission reached its critical juncture. You couldn’t miss
the mohawk with maroon highlights and golden stars shaved
into his head, especially during the final moments when a
decade of work and $2.5 billion were on the line.

He describes his role as similar to that of Ed Harris in
Apollo 13. Throughout the evening pictures and videos of
him helping lead the mission went viral, and his Twitter
feed has now gone from just a few hundred followers to
over 18,000.

“I definitely didn’t expect to wake up seeing it all over
the Internet today,” Ferdowsi said of his image, speaking
to Ross and Burbank in an interview Monday morning.

He admitted there was plenty of pressure, then relief,
when Curiosity beamed back the first pictures from 352
million miles away.

“It’s just an incredible kind of nervousness followed by
this amazing moment of elation,” he said of the mission.
“The number of things that have to go right there for that
to work, and so many of them you only get one chance.”

Ferdowsi joined NASA after graduating from the University
of Washington nearly a decade ago. The outlandish hair is
a bit more recent. He’s had different looks for major
milestones throughout the lead up to Sunday night’s

“The mohawk more or less stays there the whole time. But
I thought I was kind of being subtle with this one. The
stars were like a little tribute, but the team actually
voted on this,” He said.

Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi, center, wipes tears away after a successful landing inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times-POOL)

It was a proud moment not only for Ferdowsi but the number
of other UW grads he works with, telling Ross and Burbank
they took a moment during the celebration to snap a group

Now that he’s an overnight sensation, are a slew of
science-minded female followers soon behind? Ferdowsi
said he’s got a girlfriend, although he’s barely had any
time to see her with everything going on.

“For me, I’m still just kind of getting over the whole ‘We
made it to Mars thing,'” Ferdowsi laughed.

And after what he described as getting “little more than a
nap,” he’s back on the job, and the task at hand.

“What we’re looking for with Curiosity is habitability. Do
the other things that life require to exist, are they
there on Mars and could Mars have hosted life?” he
said that’s a big thing they want to find out.

By JOSH KERNS, Reporter.

You might also be interested in:

Dave Ross: We’re the alien invaders now

Photo Gallery: NASA scientists react to Mars landing

About the Author

Josh Kerns

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news. Email Josh at


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