We watched the Mars Curiosity landing tonight at www.nasa.gov. It was fascinating to see cool professionalism erupt into tears and cheers when a one-ton, nuclear-powered vehicle sent back the first picture from the surface of Mars. It all happened four miles away at JPL in our hometown of Pasadena. We even knew a controller in the room (that’s Miguel with the flag).
Sure, this wasn’t the first time we’ve landed there, but last time we bounced on the surface inside a wad of bubble wrap, like a package falling off the back of a UPS truck. This time, we arrived with remarkable precision, guided by rockets and lowered by the ‘Sky Crane’.
Twitter was ablaze with comments about the Mars landing. In the midst of the excitement, the social public seized on the guy the cameras continuously swept past with the mohawk haircut. We’ve come a long way from Houston Control’s crewcuts and horned rim glasses.
It started as comments, but soon his Twitter account (@tweetsoutloud) was ‘discovered’ and published broadly. It was only minutes before his Instagram account was likewise revealed. He was from that point known as “Mohawk Guy.”
He added thousands of followers in the first few minutes of his new-found fame. We’re living in an age where things move amazingly quickly…where a guy with a Mohawk suddenly becomes a parallel story to the most amazing technical achievement of our time. He had a meme within minutes.
What’s the point? We live in a radically different world than just a decade ago. Anything is possible. Anything can become hot or just as quickly cold. And Mohawks matter…ask his 17,000 Twitter followers (and counting).
When he was ‘discovered’, his social footprint, mostly obscure before that moment, was suddenly there for everyone to see. What we saw was a humble, smart scientist focused on his work even in his personal world of tweeting. I’m pretty sure he never saw this coming and therefore we saw Mohawk Guy as he really is. Are we all so ready for that moment? Should we be?