In just a few hours, President Obama will be publically sworn in for a second term, an event which will then be followed by a parade. Taking part in the parade will be many famous people, including a rather unconventional celebrity from NASA: Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as the 'Mohawk Guy.'
For NASA, this past weekend was a celebration of the inauguration, which will culminate today in the inaugural parade. Besides Ferdowsi, there will be other NASA scientists as well as replicas of the agency's Curiosity rover and Orion deep space capsule, the vehicle that President Obama hopes will one day take Americans to Mars.
In the wake of NASA' successful landing of its $2 billion Curiosity rover on Mars,Ferdowsi shot to unexpected stardom thanks to his distinctive haircut, which made him known to millions all around the world as the 'Mohawk Guy.' How popular has Ferdowsi become? In the days since the landing, during which he appeared numerous times on NASA's live video feed, Ferdowsi has attracted over 20,000 followers to his Twitter account.
For Ferdowsi, a flight director for NASA, wild hairstyles are nothing new. According to Ferdowsi himself, he sports a new hairdo for each mission he works on, with the final selection being made by a vote of co-workers.
As for his celebrity, Ferdowsi is still coming to grips with it, but hopes that his new found famewill help spur the public interest in Curiosity's mission as well as space science in general.
As for Curiosity, it represents the next generation of Mars rovers, serving as a successor to Spirit and Opportunity(landed 2004), which served as successors to Sojourner (landed 1997). Curiosity is, by far, the most ambitious Mars mission yet and will attempt to discover whether Mars ever was home to/was once suitable for life. The 8 main objectives of the mission are as follows:
1. Determine the nature/amount of organic compounds
2. Identify the building blocks of life as we know it
3. Look for traces of past life
4. Investigate Martian geology
5. Discover how rocks/soils were formed
6. Assess atmospheric evolution
7. Try and understand the current water cycle
8. Identify the surface radiation from the Sun
In terms of what the rover has to offer, it is truly breathtaking.
To start with, the rover will be powered nuclear, rather than solar energy like its predecessors, which means that Curiosity will be able to operate year-round. The rover will carry 3 cameras, a laser several spectrometers, a sampling tool, a radiation detector, atmospheric assessment tools, water detector, as well as navigation cameras designed to help the rover act autonomously by helping it avoid hazards on the Martian surface.
For NASA, there is a lot riding on Curiosity, far more than the mission itself. For starters, Curiosity is set to be the last flagship missionfor the foreseeable future as these most ambitious missions, commonly costing over $1 billion, have been eliminated from NASA's future plans thanks to extensive budget cuts However, there is hope within NASA that a successful mission may spur the public to be more interested in planetary science. The hope: greater public support in planetary exploration will spur Congress to allocate more funding for NASA, which is to see its planetary science budget drastically cut for the 2013 fiscal year.
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Bodzash Photography & Astronomy