NASA 'mohawk guy' is looking for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa

NASA is planning a mission to one of Jupiter's moons to see if conditions there can support life, Bobak Ferdowsi, the flight engineer who became the Internet sensation "mohawk guy," told CNBC .

Europa is one of the bigger of Jupiter's 62 known moons and is covered by an icy layer which has an ocean underneath. Scientists believe Europa could be one of the best bets for finding alien life in the solar system.

"There are conditions, there are likely chemistry, there's warmth. All the things that we think are necessary for life, it looks like they exist in Europa," Ferdowsi, a flight engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, told CNBC in an interview at the Pioneers Festival tech show in Vienna on Friday.

The mission is not official yet but earlier this year the project got $30 million funding from the White House, bringing it closer to reality.

But the plans could get tricky. Unlike the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012, NASA will not be able to land anything on Europa's surface due to the uncertainty over the conditions on the ice.

"We know that there's probably an ocean below the ice, we don't know how thick the ice is...so these are technical issues we want to solve," Ferdowsi explained.

NASA Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi.
Getty Images
NASA Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi.

The scientist - who became a meme because of the hair-do he sported during the Curiosity mission - said that the aim would be to send a spaceship that would fly around Europa 45 times and create an accurate picture of the moon's surface.

NASA believes the mission will take place "sometime in the 2020s".

'Mohawk guy'

Ferdowsi rose to fame in 2012 when NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars. The picture of his mohawk hairstyle became iconic and was shared all over social media. U.S. President Barack Obama thanked the scientist for making science cooler. Ferdowsi has gathered a huge following on social media and has even received marriage proposals.

Reflecting on the success, Ferdowsi said he was glad the attention made NASA more accessible.

"I guess it's very flattering. No one goes into engineering and thinks that's going to happen in their life," he told CNBC.

"It does make me happy that people resonate with an individual...really what helps us connect to the world at large is making personal connections and if they feel like they can reach out via Twitter, hopefully not for marriage proposals, but to ask questions...that's fantastic."