Published : Monday, November 13, 2017 | 6:36 AM
A systems engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory whose Mohawk hairdo became an internet sensation in 2012 as he celebrated the Curiosity rover landing on Mars is back on Twitter’s radar, after sharing a photo of a sign in one of JPL’s bathroom indicating NASA may have a littering problem.
Engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, whose first job at JPL was on the Mars Science Laboratory mission, tweeted a sign that said: “How do you expect to do a 25km flyby of Europa if you can’t even hit the garbage can?”
Below the question is a red arrow pointing to the trash can below.
It was an anonymous note, but it does show even the country’s top scientists and space engineers have frustrations too about how their peers are handling their trash.
The sign already has some handwritten comments, including one that says, “Good thing these guys aren’t the navigators!”
Ferdowsi then adds some reference points for people who may be wondering how maneuvering a spacecraft compares to landing trash where it should be. “For reference, we’re talking flying a spacecraft 15 mi / 25 km above the surface of a moon ~500,000,000 mi / 8000,000,000 km away. The trashcan is arm’s length away.”
In 2012, Ferdowsi almost stole the show from the Curiosity landing spectacle when he was spotted sporting his red-tinged mohawk haircut, with yellow stars dyed above his ears, as he helped his team land the rover on Mars. He was flight director for the rover landing. Photos of him as he worked in the NASA control room spread online, and within minutes, he was trending on Twitter.
Before the Curiosity launch, Bobak had about 200 followers online. Eighteen hours after the landing, his followers had grown to 17,200. He now has over 100,000 followers.
Ferdowsi is now on the Europa Clipper mission, which intends to explore Jupiter’s icy moon Europa to find out it could hold the right conditions for life. The moon is believed to be covered with a vast ocean buried beneath the thick ice. The Clipper would perform multiple flybys and capture high-resolution images of Jupiter’s moon. Ice penetrating radar would attempt to see how thick the ice cover is and what lies in the ocean beneath.
Born in Philadelphia but raised in the Bay Area, Ferdowsi went to college at the University of Washington in Seattle and graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds degrees in aerospace engineering. From MIT, he landed his first job at JPL’s Mars Science Lab.