PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — His red-tinged mohawk almost made as many headlines as the landing of the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet.
Mars Science Laboratory flight director Bobak Ferdowsi has collected more than 41,000 followers on Twitter after being introduced to the world during Sunday’s historic landing on Mars.
But Ferdowi told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO he still hasn’t come to terms with his newfound Internet stardom.
“I think it’s awesome if I’m helping to make science cool, I think it’s cool, but I really haven’t had a chance to wrap my head around it yet,” he said. “Landing something on Mars is sort of a life-changing moment as it is, and I’m still working through the emotions and all that stuff.”
The 32-year-old self-described nerd said his passion for science goes back to his childhood, when he would constantly play with Legos and draw pictures of cars and spaceships.
Ferdowi said he was inspired to pursue a career in aerospace engineering after watching the Pathfinder mission touch down on Mars in 1997.
“At that moment, you could kind of see how similar Mars is in some ways to the Earth, it’s crazy, it’s like a whole different planet, but at the same time, there’s so many things that…if you walked into the desert you might see,” said Ferdowi.
The MIT-educated Ferdowi encouraged young people interested in aerospace engineering or other scientific fields to never forfeit their imaginations while studying for their future.
“Be imaginative, be creative…for me, I played with Legos as a kid, I just kinda built things,” he said. “You just get a sense of how things work when you work with your hands.”
And as for the haircut?
Ferdowsi said he would change his hairstyle before any big milestones on the Curiosity project, even shaving stars on the side of his head that won national media attention.
But the red tint, said Ferdowsi, was strictly a democratic effort.
“It was voted on by the team actually, my boss sent out a link that was to a poll online, and he let the whole team vote on a multiple-choice vote, so we got the red, white and blue,” he said.
The $2.5 billion Curiosity project will utilize a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil to measuring the planet’s habitability and potential for human exploration.