Bobak Ferdowsi: Life on Mars

bobak

Yesterday I posted some background on my LA Weekly People Issue story about Margot Ocañas, the city’s new pedestrian coordinator. Today, I’d like you to meet my other interview subject, Bobak Ferdowsi. But you probably know him better as Mohawk Guy, the flight director for the Mars Curiosity mission that just happened to have the coolest haircut in the planet. Or maybe the GALAXY. He had just gotten back from the State of the Union address, where he got to sit with Michelle Obama and Tim Cook. See where a cool haircut can get you?

JPL

To meet Bobak, the photographer Kevin Scanlon and I got to spend the day at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, nestled up in the mountains of La Cañada, above Pasadena.

Only in LA can you ride a city bus to a place where they drive Mars rovers.

And since I know what you’re thinking, yes, transit does go all the way up there. You can essentially ride a public bus to Mars.

Climbing wallMars Yard

We met him in the Mars Yard, which is essentially a playground for the Rovers. This is where they run tests on a Rover clone to make sure Curiosity will behave they way they want him to on Mars. Yes, that is a Rover climbing wall.

He's so cute

Awwww, isn’t he cute?

Launch Complex EquipmentCords

They let me photograph all this very expensive and important-looking equipment. I was in nerd heaven.

Went to see a guy about a mohawk.

As we spent the day together, I was super impressed by Bobak (and not just his personal style, which you can see totally rocks). He’s obviously passionate about his job, but he also has this genuine enthusiasm about promoting science and engineering, especially to kids. Even though the mohawk brought him global attention (which he’s still not used to, he says), he’s using that attention to get other Americans interested in space exploration. His inquisitive, positive attitude reminded me of someone else who taught me a lot about the universe. I think you’re looking at this generation’s Carl Sagan. You can read the story about him here.

Amazing top image by the awesome photographer (and my neighbor) Kevin Scanlon who shoots all the people for the People Issue every year. Hire him! Hire him! 

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