Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

★★★★☆

Andy Weir has clearly found a formula that works. A brilliant lone scientist stuck in space, who must overcome calamity after calamity in order to survive and hopefully get home.

This time, the story involves space fungi that are eating our sun (technically, it’s more like a space algae, but whatever). The nations of Earth band together and launch a mission to the stars in order to turn the tide on this interstellar parasite.

Our narrator wakes from a coma and doesn’t remember a thing. Where is he? How did he get there? What is his name?

Like Mark Watney before him in the Martian, our narrator is going to have to “science the shit” out of his situation in order to answer all the questions above, and also hopefully, maybe save Earth, too.

Oh, and sprinkle in a bit of first contact as well. Mark Watney never found himself a sidekick while he was on Mars.

Some parts were overly verbose, other parts were cringe-worthy and corny, but this was still an entertaining story I tore through in about 3 days.

If you liked The Martian, you’re going to like this book. If you didn’t, well, sorry. This book is more of that and then some.

3 weeks of GOES-17 imagery: hurricanes, wildfires and more

I recently built a side project recently that automatically downloads GOES-17 imagery every 10 minutes and then compiles it into a video.

The result is pretty darn awesome! Here is 3 weeks of GOES-17 imagery sourced from NOAA / CIRA / RAMMB. The video begins the night of August 15th, 2020 as lightning storms rolled through Northern California and runs until the afternoon of September 10th, 2020.

Almost immediately, you begin to see smoke plumes from fires created due to lightning strikes.

Note: The blue and yellow blocks that you see periodically flash on screen are the result of corrupted image data downlinked from GOES-17. I’m not sure exactly what causes this, but these errors are present within the original images files hosted on NOAA’s CDN.

(Be sure to bump up the video quality — YouTube’s default compression really ruins the image)

See a satellite tonight (maybe)

I’ll admit, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the International Space Station pass overhead (it’s something I loved to do in the past).

While reading about Elon Musk’s ambitious plan to build a constellation of over 40,000 satellites for providing Internet coverage, I discovered a pretty awesome website for tracking viewing opportunities for his Starlink constellation, as well as other notable objects in orbit (such as the ISS):

See a Satellite Tonight is a project put together by James Darpinian, that shows you which satellites will be visible in your location per the next few days. As an added bonus, you can view where in the sky the satellites will pass overhead using Google Streetview. It’s pretty neat!

On the off chance that the SpaceX Starlink constellation is passing overhead, check it out — you’ll see a train of (as of this writing) 60 satellites appear overhead.

Due to weather and lighting condition in Oakland, I haven’t been able to see it yet, but my dad sent me the following message after using the same website:

Made a point to get up early this AM to watch for Elon’s Starlink. Wow, what a sight! 60 satellites in a row. Just thinking about all the implications of this. Definitely a visual I’ve never seen in my lifetime! Kind of surreal, actually.

Getting excited for totality

We’ll be road tripping to Wyoming to see the total solar eclipse. Apparently, experiencing one is really weird.

During a solar totality, animals usually fall silent. People howl and weep. Flames of nuclear fire visibly erupt like geysers from the sun’s edge. Shimmering dark lines cover the ground.

I can’t wait!

Comet PanSTARRS!

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I was finally able to catch Comet PanSTARRS tonight from our roof in North Oakland. So hard to see, but awesome.

Caught it with my DSLR and a 200mm lens.

See you again in 110,000 years, PanSTARR!

The final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

STS-134 NASA Tweetup

STS-134 NASA Tweetup and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

On April 28th and April 29th, 2011, I was fortunate enough to participate in the NASA Tweetup for STS-134. It was to be the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the second to last mission in the Space Shuttle program. I traveled to the Space Coast from San Francisco and spent three fantastic days with fellow Twitter users and enthusiastic space geeks at Kennedy Space Center. Things didn’t always go as planned (you’ll see), but it was an experience that I’ll cherish and never forget. Godspeed, Endeavour.

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