GOOD NEWS! The Bobak Phenomenon

It’s all good. The focus on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), AKA CURIOSITY landing is great. Not only is it is a real step forward for science and space exploration,  but also it has become huge in giving attention to the personnel responsible for the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) of the MSL. Attention to these people will further interest in science and math by students.

It figures in some ways that twitter and other internet outlets would go crazy about MSL landing on Mars late Sunday night. Who couldn’t be excited about this happening? Naively, I assumed the excitement would be about the actual happening and first time event of landing a car sized rover on Mars prepared to take great photos and do authentic scientific exploration. Silly me! Those who watched the NASA feed became fixated on the hair style of Bobak Ferdowsi, the activity lead/flight director for the Mars Science Laboratory.

Bobak became the NASA Mohawk Guy freezing twitter and the JPL websites the night of the landing with activity overload. So, he was the activity lead, in more ways than his job intends.

Part of me loves this attention to science and the people who work so hard to advance innovation and yes, curiosity, with both a small and capital “C.” Part of me figures it is just our culture which rewards media worthiness rather than scholarly achievement. Think of all the unheralded scientists that there are working hard every day to make our lives better, to discover and innovate. Does everything have to have a Pop Culture twist to become media worthy or attract deserved attention?

So, maybe it does, and I say oh well. I will take it, this focus on Bobak. By the way, he pronounces it Bawbuhk, emphasis on the Baw, not Bowback. He presents well and has been a positive reflection and influence on the entire project and team at JPL that designed, developed and yes, launched and landed this most advanced rover on the surface of Mars. Bobak is getting more than his 10 minutes of fame, and as a result,we are getting a lot of attention and information about this project. All of the comedians and news programs paid tribute not only to Curiosity and the spirit of American discovery and innovation that made it happen, but also they paid a stellar tribute to Bobak and HIS HAIR! 

The world needs those who wish to do and discover. Young people need mentoring. Showcasing someone to whom everyone can relate will only bring positive results. I am not sure why the world thinks the people who do these things are not regular people. We make fun of “nerds” or “geeks” as if you can’t be a regular person who likes regular things and can also do extraordinary things. Well, you can. The landing of the MSL was a great day for science, technology, space exploration, and the United States. It was a big day for all of those who worked on MSL directly or indirectly to make it happen. It did take a very large village. It was a great day for Bobak Ferdowsi, Adam Steltzner and the rest of the Entry, Descent and Landing team at JPL. It was a great day for me.

A few articles, videos on Bobak Ferdowsi:,b=facebook

Adam Steltzner interview on NPR

Categories: 21st Century Education, Bobak Ferdowsi, creativity, Imagination, Innovation, project based learnning, STEM education, Uncategorized

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