NASA 'Mohawk Guy' arrives for State of the Union with new 'do

NASA's Twitter celebrity "Mohawk Guy" helped send a rover to Mars, but now he's landing at the White House, thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama, and he'll be rocking a brand new hairstyle for the occasion.

Bobak Ferdowsi shot to fame the night the Mars Curiosity rover landed on the Red Planet, when his stars-and-stripes hairstyle captivated viewers worldwide. His faux-hawk even earned a shout-out from President Obama, who joked that he had toyed with the idea of trying a similar 'do.

The first lady invited the 33-year-old Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer to be one of her guests at the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night. In a phone interview, Ferdowsi, sporting his new look, talked hair, science, politics and the Mars mission's near future.

What was your reaction when you got the call?

Shocked, a little bit taken aback, obviously. I was driving so I just needed a moment to recompose myself. But it was very exciting. I think anybody would be really thrilled to have an opportunity like this.… It’s totally crazy. Mostly I’m excited to meet the first lady.

Are you planning what to say to her?

No, not off the top of my head -- I’m just trying not to be too nervous. I’ve gotten a lot of texts from my friends telling me what I should talk to her about. A couple of them were telling me to tell her they like her bangs. And [to talk about] more planetary science funding. So you know, the usual.

Do you have a new hairstyle for the event?

I do. I got it cut yesterday. It's a little patriotic. I have USA on one side and my other home, Mars, on the other side. 

You had a different haircut when you marched in the presidential inauguration parade last month. What did each side look like?

NASA and JPL. It was the old "worm" logo, mostly because the old NASA font was a lot easier to work with. The "meatball" would have been really hard to put on the side of my head.

What do you think your presence at the State of the Union represents?

I think it’s mostly to represent NASA and the Curiosity team after this year’s accomplishments. And that’s obviously a real honor for me. But it’s also a moment to showcase NASA’s work in science and technology, and the fact that Curiosity has really inspired a lot of young kids to go into science and engineering.

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-- Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

Follow Amina Khan on Twitter @aminawrite.

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