The distinctively coiffed NASA flight director who became known as "Mohawk Guy" when he and his colleagues guided rover Curiosity to a successful touchdown on Mars will be part of the presidential inauguration parade Monday in Washington, D.C.
Bobak Ferdowsi, of JPL in La Canada-Flintridge, will walk with fellow NASA scientists next to a full-scale model of the SUV-sized rover Curiosity.
"The things we do, the exploration we do, is not just about learning about other planets. It's about understanding our own," Ferdowsi said in a statement issued by the inauguration committee. "NASA gives us a chance to travel outside our world as a way to look back and learn about ourselves as a species -- as people. There's nowhere else in the world where you get to do that."
As Curiosity touched down Aug. 6 on Mars, Ferdowsi's popularity took off. There were tumblr pages, marriage proposals, memes and a lot more followers of @tweetsoutloud.
He became known as "Mohawk Guy" by viewers who watched the live feed of Curiosity's landing, the resulting celebration at mission control and Ferdowsi's impossible-to-miss cut with star-shape accents. But Ferdowsi plans to have a "slightly different" haircut during the parade.
"It’ll be something fun for the parade," he said. "It’s a bit of a surprise."
President Barack Obama's second-term inauguration comes about one week after scientists announced that Curiosity is on the way to a rock outcrop where it will drill into the Martian surface. The drilling marks the most complex engineering task since Curiosity landed in Gale crater.
The rover is part of an effort to determine whether environmental conditions on Mars could have been favorable to microbes. The journey to the drilling spot should take about two weeks.
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