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Mohawk Guy visits UDRI

NASA'S 'Mohawk Guy' Bobak Ferdowsi visits UDRI'S MMRTG lab

It was a meeting written in the stars – or at least on Mars. NASA’s “Mohawk Guy” met with UDRI’s “Bowtie Guy” at the University of Dayton Research Institute Sept. 29 to talk about power for space missions. Bobak Ferdowsi, who served as flight director for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission that lowered the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface in 2012, toured the UDRI’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) Lifecycle Testing Lab, operated by distinguished research scientist Chad Barklay.

The Research Institute houses the only two MMRTGs on Earth that are nearly identical to the one currently powering Curiosity. Barklay and his research team are designing and running experiments to evaluate and provide information on the performance of the generators over time and under conditions similar to the extreme temperatures and harsh environments they would face on Mars and during deep space travel.

The information provided by UDRI has and will be used to help the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA determine extensions of the Mars Science Lab mission, originally scheduled to end in 2014, as well as prepare for Mars 2020, the next planned rover mission, said Barklay, who helped develop the layout and assembly procedures for the MMRTG that was launched with Curiosity. “By providing mission planners with more accurate data about how the performance of these systems change as a function of time and the environment, we are helping them better prepare for future missions not only to Mars, but to deep space as well,” Barklay said.

Ferdowsi, a flight systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is currently working as a mission planner for NASA's Europa mission scheduled for launch in the 2020s. He said the type of power provided by radioisotope generators is critical for travel to parts of the universe where the sun could not effectively reach vehicles equipped with solar power systems.

“Not only does this type of technology allow us to explore places that we could not go to with traditional solar power, it will also enable longer-term and more robust operations in the places we do go,” Ferdowsi said.

Dubbed the “Mohawk guy” by Barack Obama and the countless fans who made him an overnight media sensation after he was seen on television sporting his unique ’do during the rover landing, Ferdowsi is credited with bringing cool to NASA.

Barklay, whose bowtie has become his trademark, joined UDRI in 2007, and just recently retired after a 32-year career in the Army Reserve, where he was known as the Bow Tie Colonel.

Sept. 29, 2016

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