The Martian (2015)

Ridley Scott’s The Martian is an accurate, thrilling survival story that for ONCE portrays scientists as normal human beings (even cool, likable ones!), instead of amoral villains, sociopaths, socially crippled nerds, or emotionless robots.

Problem solving is the hero of this edge-of-your-seat thriller, and realism is king. I don’t have degree in any of the many fields of science featured in the story, but I have seen a lot of sci fi movies, and the usual Hollywood nonsense for the sake of drama was nowhere to be found. The laws of physics are followed, meaning communication takes time. Travel takes time too, it takes MONTHS to get to Mars, and this is not glossed over but is a major factor in the plot. The precision and timing of orbits and their effect on launches is taken into account as well.

Not only is the science great, but the acting and the excitement is right there as well. You might worry, hearing how accurate everything is, that the actual story and characters would suffer. Well, they don’t. I will admit that the Watney character’s quirkey sarcasm is a bit groan worthy at times, but that matches well with the character of the book–and what should we expect from a NASA botanist, anyway?

Damon’s performance is really good, considering he rarely interacts with anyone else in the film, and has to do a lot of monologues which could have easily gone awkward. The others are great as well, a really strong cast of well built characters, which it is clear some time went into creating even though they weren’t the focus of the movie.

The space scenes looked amazing, on a level with Gravity, and the Martian landscape was perfect. Just the right level of otherworldly meshed with the familiar red dunes and rocks that we all know.

This is not your regular action movie. There are no villains besides nature, and there is a lot of science and not much traditional action until the very end. But if you are a fan of hard sci fi, or realism, or just good, thoughtful action movies, you definitely have to give this one a shot.

This is close to being my favorite movie I’ve seen this year, but I think Mad Max still beats it out by a hair.

Check it out!



It’s been all over the news and social media for the past few days, but in case you haven’t heard somehow, the New Horizons probe has taken some amazing pictures of Pluto, after nearly a decade of travel and three billion miles.

Distances like this are so hard to grasp, the numbers are just so huge that they don’t really make sense to our human minds. Trying to think about it really makes me feel a lot of respect for the people that engineered and planned this. It’s so easy to take things like this for granted. “Oh, cool we got pictures of another planet, great.” you might say.

This planet is three BILLION miles away, and we were able to fire this tiny probe at it with such accuracy that it flew by within 8000 miles. That’s like trying to hit a target an inch across from nearly six miles away, if I did my math right. And not just hit the target, take pictures of it then turn around and broadcast them back to Earth.

So I’m feeling pretty impressed, and proud of humanity for doing something so awesome. And I’m enjoying having all these pictures we’ve been getting. And there is even more to come as the probe continues to send the images back.

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Maybe one day we’ll be sending a robot to land there… or even people?


NASA’s budget for 2016 was announced on Monday, and within the 18.5 billion they received, is 30 million specifically for a robotic mission to Europa.

Europa has always been the hot spot for the possibility of life in our solar system, and now we may be able to catch a glimpse of anything living beneath the frozen oceans of the moon.

This started me thinking about what would happen if we really did discover life there. Life of any kind. How would it affect the psyche of the world, knowing that we are not alone? How would it affect religions and philosophies?

I tried to think about how it would affect me. Would I be changed, knowing that there was other life, completely alien from anything I knew before, that had sprung up spontaneously in the same way I, and every other living thing I’ve encountered, did?

I think it would make me feel awed, in the true sense of the word. I get a little tingling in my gut, thinking about it, a glimmer of how huge and old and completely unknowable the universe is. It feels strange, and a bit scary, but also comforting in a weird way.

Would such a discovery make the rest of the world feel this way? Or would they brush it off, joke about it, minimize it, or outright deny it? Or would it be met with a collective ‘huh, that’s interesting’ and be old, forgotten news in a few weeks?

I don’t know anymore. I feel like it should be momentous, it should be history making, the biggest event in modern science and something unforgettable and world shaking. But maybe these things aren’t important to most people. You cant interview a microbe or fish-like thing beneath ice on a moon four-hundred million miles away. Maybe it would only mean anything to scientists or sci fi fans.

I’d like to think not, though. I’d like to think that kind of news would draw humanity together in collective amazement, and joy at such a discovery. I’d like to think it would make us all better people.

But maybe I’m just an idealist.

Anyway, we’ll have to actually get to Europa first! Right now a launch date of 2022 is in the works. I’ll be watching excitedly as the mission is planned, implemented and executed over the coming years.

Cloud City on Venus

NASA has plans for a Cloud City on Venus, seriously. 

Our nearest neighbor, Venus, is always ignored when it comes to explorations, probably because the surface is around 465C (870F). Venus is very similar to Earth otherwise, though, and is called Earth’s twin. It’s nearly identical in size and composition and gravity, we just can’t get anywhere near the surface. Even to send a robot would be difficult since the temperatures there are hot enough to melt lead.

But the atmosphere, however, is another questions.

The High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, or HAVOC (nice) is NASA’s plan which would first send a robot to test the atmosphere, followed by an crewed orbital mission, then finally a thirty day manned mission into the atmosphere of Venus, staying in solar-powered airships held up by helium. Yeah, it sounds like a sci fi movie. But NASA is actually seriously thinking about this.

Imagine, a cloud city on Venus full of scientists studying the planet below. The vision in my head is something like the scene below:


But… maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up…

To Mars!

NASA had a successful test flight with the spacecraft Orion today. The craft they plan to use to send a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 2030’s.

It’s so exciting to me that space exploration is getting such interest again. If we want to live among the stars, our first step is to live on our own neighbor. To think that I might even live to see it happen makes me feel both incredibly lucky, and a bit jealous of the kids being born today who will live to see so much more than me.

As we all work together to stretch our reach and do the so called impossible, it is a reminder of what explorers we always have been, and always will be. The universe is there for the taking, and I’m glad to see us finally reaching out again.

I look forward to watching this next chapter in the story of humanity unfold!