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A Q&A with mohawk-festooned rocket scientist Bobak Ferdowsi

Bobak Ferdowsi, a Curiosity Mars rover flight director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is now known worldwide as 'Mohawk Guy,' for his patriotic hairstyle seen by the millions who watched the rover's successful landing on August 5.

By Mike WallSPACE.com / August 17, 2012

Mars Science Laboratory systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reacts after the Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars on Aug. 5.

Bill Ingalls/NASA

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When NASA's Mars rover Curiosity pulled off its daring Red Planet landing on Aug. 5, the 1-ton robot became an international star — and so did Bobak Ferdowsi.

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As a flight director for Curiosity's mission, Ferdowsi played a key role in the rover's touchdown success that night. But he got noticed primarily for his American flag-inspired hairstyle, a red- and blue-streaked mohawk set off by white stars on the side of his head.

And so Ferdowsi, who has worked on Curiosity's mission since November 2003, became "Mohawk Guy" to millions of people around the world. He received marriage proposals from strangers, and his Twitter following ballooned, to more than 51,000 as of Friday (Aug. 17).

A music video spoof of Curiosity's Mars landing stars a "Mohawk Guy" lookalike, and President Barack Obama even mentioned Ferdowsi Monday (Aug. 13) in a congratulatory call to Curiosity's handlers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"I understand there's a special mohawk guy that's working on the mission," President Obama said. "He's been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. I in the past thought about getting a mohawk myself." [Gallery: Curiosity's 1st Photos of Mars]

SPACE.com caught up recently with Ferdowsi to talk about his newfound fame, the presidential shout-out and what comes next for him and for Curiosity, which will investigate whether or not Mars could ever have hosted microbial life.

SPACE.com: What's it like to have reached this level of international fame, to be known around the world as "Mohawk Guy?"

Bobak Ferdowsi: It's all really surreal and crazy; I can't even believe what happened. I thought it had quieted down, and then to hear the president give me a kind of shout-out was crazy. So, yeah — basically, surreal (laughs).

SPACE.com: Was hearing the president mention you the craziest thing that's happened?

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