State of the Union: NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' will sit with Michelle Obama

At the State of the Union address tomorrow night, First Lady Michelle Obama will be joined by NASA's 'Mohawk Guy,' the Iranian-American Bobak Ferdowsi who attracted attention during the landing of NASA's latest Mars mission, the Curiosity rover.

Alex Brandon / AP / File
Bobak "Mohawk Guy" Ferdowsi, seen here walking in the Inaugural Parade with "NASA" carved into his famous hair, will sit with Michelle Obama during the State of the Union tomorrow night.

Life is good for NASA's "Mohawk Guy." He became world famous after helping NASA's huge Curiosity rover make a dramatic landing on Mars, and now he'll sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union address.

The Iranian-American Mohawk Guy — whose name is Bobak Ferdowsi — will sit in the first lady's box to highlight President Barack Obama's call for more visas for skilled immigrants in the fields of math, science and engineering, Southern California Public Radio reported Monday (Feb. 11).

A White House official confirmed the news to SPACE.com.

Ferdowsi will be joined in the box by a number of other people from various walks of life, whose presence may help the president drive home points about some of his policy proposals. The speech begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST (Feb. 12; 0200 GMT Wednesday).

Ferdowsi's American flag-inspired hairstyle — a red- and blue-streaked mohawk set off by white stars on the side of his head — rocketed the mission flight director to international fame during Curiosity's nail-biting landing on the night of Aug. 5.

In a complex maneuver that had never been tried before on another planet, the 1-ton rover was lowered to the Martian surface on cables by a rocket-powered sky crane, which then flew off and crash-landed intentionally a safe distance away.

The president even gave Ferdowsi a public shout-out shortly after the landing.

"I understand there's a special mohawk guy that's working on the mission," President Obama said in a congratulatory call to Curiosity's handlers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Aug. 13. "He's been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. I in the past thought about getting a mohawk myself."

Ferdowsi is not a mohawk loyalist, however. He said he has tried out various hairstyles over the years to mark major milestones in the development of Curiosity's $2.5 billion mission, which seeks to determine if the Red Planet can, or ever could, support microbial life.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments, 17 cameras and several other tools to aid in this quest. Over the weekend, it completed a major milestone, drilling a 2.5-inch-deep (6.35 centimeters) hole in a Martian rock and collecting samples. No robot had ever done this on Mars or any other planet before.

Ferdowsi also marched in President Obama's inaugural parade last month, along with life-size models of Curiosity and NASA's Orion manned space capsule.

Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+

Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.