Usain Bolt may have rocketed to victory in the Men’s 100 final on Sunday, but thousands of miles away, another man was rising to prominence with great speed. The Mars Curiosity Landing, which made a safe touch down on the red planet at 06.14 BST today, wasn’t just a further leap for mankind but the scene of one man’s unexpected triumph over obscurity.
Bobak Ferdowsi, who is flight director on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission, attracted a good deal of attention for his haircut, a shaven, stars and red dye combo which has earned him the moniker Mohawk Guy. According to AP, Ferdowsi cuts his hair differently for every mission, and the latest style seems to have turned him into something of a heart-throb. “Cute, stylish AND brilliant!” tweeted one woman, while a man blogging about the landing mission on tumblr wrote: “Bobak Ferdowsi is the new standard of attractiveness. Good looking and smart. Us male-folk are screwed.”
The Mohawk, which us Brits tend to call a Mohican, needs a specific context to be rebellious. Once the signature look of punk culture, the very outrageousness of spiky hair made it instantly recognisable as the style of a bygone era. But there’s something sweet about Ferdowsi’s own version, with its playful dabs of colour and the “I love my job!” message sent out by the sprinkling of stars. Plus, it hardly seems like the kind of thing you often see at NASA.
Anyway, it would be naive to suggest subversion is what has made Mohawk Guy such a hit. The website Buzzfeed distilled his popularity as: Mohawk + NASA + Twitter = Swoon. “Showed up for work today”, reads one doctored photo of the man, “became an internet sensation.” Meanwhile, Ferdowsi, it seemed, was pretty busy helping navigate a curiosity rover through space, and the only acknowledgement of his new-found fame was a tweet which read: “Internet, you win this round. I’ll be back later, but thanks so much. Now going to celebrate with all my friends and team! #msl”.