Bobak Ferdowsi

Fault Protection Lead
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

You may remember Bobak Ferdowsi from such things as: Battlebots, Cupcake Wars, and Sharknado 3, but by day he is the Fault Protection lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission, an Earth-observing satellite evaluating global environmental change and hazards. His prior positions have included Europa Clipper flight system engineer, Integrated Launch and Cruise Engineer on Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, and Science Planner on the Cassini mission. In addition he served as a Flight Director during Curiosity operations. Bobak earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2001 from the University of Washington and subsequently his Master of Science in the same area from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He's always wanted to explore the universe, plays shortstop in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory softball league, batted 0.817 this year, and usually rides his bike to work.

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 became a media "sensation", when during the August 6, 2012, landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, he wore a mohawk hairstyle that was seen on NASA TV's live broadcast of the event. He was seated 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 "it does seem NASA has come a long way from the white shirts, dark-rimmed glasses, and pocket protectors. 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 awesom



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Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.