As space geeks watched nervously to see if NASA’s Curiosity rover would land safely on Mars, many found themselves wondering, “Hey, who’s that cool dude with the stars-and-stripes mohawk?”
That dude was Bobak Ferdowsi, the activity lead for NASA’s mission to Mars, and his crazy haircut made him the internet’s new favorite thing. Less than 24 hours after Curiosity touched down, Mohawk Guy had blasted into our collective consciousness. Instant fame led to a NASA Needs More Mohawks Tumblr dedicated to him, a rash of online marriage proposals, a string of meme photos of Ferdowsi at mission control, and loads of adoring fan art. He also now has more than 44,000 Twitter followers. (Create your own NASA Mohawk Guy image.)
“I sort of thought this week was just going to be dealing with the emotions of landing,” Ferdowsi said in a phone interview with Wired. “But to find out late Sunday, early Monday morning that all of the sudden people were really interested in me, that was totally surreal.”
Because the internet loves remixing its memes almost as much as it loves making them, there’s also now a “Call Me Maybe” version of the Mohawk Guy meme, as well as an au courant version with Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney for the McKayla Is Not Impressed Tumblr.
Wired caught up with Ferdowsi to talk to him how he created that fabulous hair, seeing William Shatner at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, playing with Legos and what it’s like to be a scientist-turned-web-celeb.