Web Crush Wednesdays: The Curiosity Landing Team!

Science is awesome. We don’t post a lot about hard science stuff here a lot, (which may be vaguely related to the fact that most if not all of our writers are or were liberal arts majors) but it nevertheless is really, really cool. And one of the coolest things that science has done lately is to put a new rover/laboratory (the Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity) on Mars!

But obviously ‘Science’ isn’t a concrete entity, capable of building skycranes and calculating trajectories. This awesome sciencing didn’t happen without a metric crapton of human effort, and so that’s why today’s Web Crush is the Curiosity Landing Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory!

These awesome sciencey ladies and gents have been working on this project for eight years, and in the last week following their tremendous success, they’ve become bona-fide internet celebrities. They get major props from me for several reasons (above and beyond the whole ‘bein really smart and good at science’ thing):

1) They are very plugged in to the social side of the internet, and are funny and good-humored without being unprofessional. For an example of this, check out the official Curiosity twitter feed, where you can get up to the minute news, transmitted pictures, and other updates from the personified rover itself, sprinkled with clever repartee and well-placed sci-fi references. Another really awesome thing they’ve done is an AMA (ask me anything) over on Reddit, where the team fielded dozens of questions both personal and professional from interested redditors. (Here‘s a breakdown of some of their answers if you’d rather not wade through the actual Reddit page.)

2) It’s said that Tumblr can make a fandom out of anything, so it’s not shocking that the JPL team (especially Bobak Ferdowski, that hot mohawked guy the mission’s Flight Director) is now the subject of fanart, fanfiction, fanvideos, tshirts, genderswapping, ponification, memeification, webcomics, tribute cosplays and hairstyles, and much more. The team has taken this totally in stride, and appear to be flattered and amused by the outpouring of fanworks. Just the other day @MarsCuriosity retweeted this hilarious parody vid:

3) Their sudden stardom has, first of all, put science back in the public eye as something awesome, which is fab. But more than that, the team’s diversity of ages, races (Ferdowski is Iranian-American, for one), genders (read about the women of the team here), styles, and everything else has helped reinforce two important statements: science needs all types of people to flourish, and there is no stereotypical science-er. Intelligence comes in all sorts of packages, and judging people based on their appearances is not going to get you anywhere.

So here’s to you, JPL Team—you’ve got me geeking out and crushing pretty hard.

4 thoughts on “Web Crush Wednesdays: The Curiosity Landing Team!

  1. Our secret is finally out: science is sexy. ^_~ Like you said, it’s great that the JPL is so diverse. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about how science creates an unwelcoming environment for anyone’s who is not an older white male, but I’ve never personally come across that and NASA seems to prove that idea wrong too.

    • Haha I’ve always thought science was sexy, it’s just like everyone’s finally agreeing with me 😉
      I think it’s more like there’s a stereotype of what a scientist is, rather than that being the truth of what a scienist is.

  2. That particular wording on Bobak’s photo is misleading. For each event, the team takes a vote on how to celebrate it… through Bob’s hair. So it’s not a case of him rebelling against the status quo of Princetons and Caesars as it is him being the willing participant in a close knit group’s traditions. Either way, he is a unique and fun guy – as are a lot of the brains at NASA!

    • Thank you Hend I was about to say the same thing. Bob and the team are all great people. They are truly dedicated to exploration and believe in the program and the hair thing is a team event. It’s fantastic that it has given the program more attention, anything to get people interested in the sciences. – Athena in Atherton

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