I love the fact that NASA’s dishy mohawked flight director Bobak Ferdowsi is now basically a household name, putting a human (and handsome) face on the Curiosity mission and space exploration in general. If we’re going to survive as a civilization or a species, we need to get excited about science, and it helps when we see scientists who don’t just look like the White Knights of the Ivory Tower. A cool, young, kinda punk NASA guy with a funny name? Yes please.
The Washington Post’s Ideas@Innovations blog had a Skype chat with Bobak (we’re not technically on a first-name basis, but look at the awesome Photoshop I made for him, come on!), whom they’ve declared to be the new cool face of science:
Among my favorite tidbits:
- LEGOs got him into engineering, and he still plays with them (professionally!) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- The soundtrack for the Curiosity launch was 80s hair metal.
- Bobak went to space camp, where he presumably stowed aboard a shuttle with a mischievous robot.
- He does not play Dungeons and Dragons but thinks it sounds fun.
Okay, most of those are not strictly about science, but I also loved this quote about the value of exploring Mars:
Mars is the best analogy we have to Earth. We don’t have, of course, a lot of other planets around, and Mars is the one planet that’s kind of closest to Earth both physically and in terms of size, composition, and everything else. And so being able to understand what happens on Mars vs. what happens on Earth gives us a perspective on what makes Earth so unique.
Bobak was really enthusiastic about the idea of leveraging his newfound internet stardom to encourage budding scientists:
If I can help motivate even a couple kids to get into science and engineering … that would be wonderful. I’m certainly hoping that once things kinda settle down here and I get into the routine of working on Mars time that I’ll get a lot more chances to maybe do things like Skype or visit classrooms and do things like that.
I can think of a couple classrooms that would be pretty psyched to have him. Classrooms in my PANTS. (No, but seriously, real classrooms too.) (But SERIOUSLY also classrooms in my pants.)