NASA is Hiring

I am soooo jealous.
I am soooo jealous.

NASA made an interesting announcement, they’re looking for new astronauts!

This came as a surprise to me as I’d thought NASA had discontinued all manned missions.

As far as I know the halt on manned missions happened for two reasons, funding is tight and NASA is an obvious thing to cut and we already did the man on the moon thing so why go again?

As to the funding, I’m not sure what’s going on there. Regardless, the missions NASA is planning are scheduled ten years out so the funding situation could be entirely different then.

But what are the new missions?

Not going to Mars like Mark Watney in The Martian, but almost as good!

NASA will be landing an astronaut on an asteroid.

There are a group of asteroids called “near-Earth asteroids” that have orbits around the sun pretty similar to Earth’s orbit.

A couple of the near-Earth asteroids are as big two kilometers across (about a mile).

Before landing a person on an asteroid, NASA plans to land a rover like what they did with the Rosetta space probe on a comet. Then a manned mission will commence in 2025.

I don’t know which asteroid NASA will be landing an astronaut on, there are a whole bunch to choose from. Regardless, this appears to be the next step in manned space exploration.

NASA hopes this will be a stepping stone to manned missions on Mars.

In addition to the work on the asteroids, astronauts are spending longer amounts of time on the ISS. They’re doing this so we can see what precautions need to be taken when someone is in space for years at a time.

A mission to Mars would take a year or two, so we need to be prepared for how someone’s mind and body reacts to being in space for that long.

So enough about why NASA is hiring astronauts, how do I get the job?

If you’re like me, upon hearing the news that NASA is hiring you immediately looked up the qualifications they’re looking for.

They want someone with at least a Master’s degree in science or engineering. I’m working on that, so good so far.

The next big qualification is 1,000 hours of logged jet plane fight time.

If you’re paying for lessons and rental time on a plane that amount of logged time would cost upwards of $50,000. So you either have to be really serious about flying jets recreationally, a commercial flyer, or a member of the airforce.

There are a few other qualifications, but nothing as big as those two.

Obviously I don’t meet that requirement, but maybe some kid is reading this and is thinking, “If I get a Master’s in physics and learn to fly a jet then I’d be ready to apply to be an astronaut by the time NASA starts doing missions to Mars.”

That’s the word from the space world!

If you want to read more about the process for hiring astronauts check out these two links: NASA’s Info Site, NASA’s Hiring Site

-GoCorral

The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral

Fake New Year’s Eve

Every year my D&D group has a tradition of gathering together for New Year’s Eve and playing games all night long until we fall asleep when the sun comes up on the New Year.

As we got older it became a little inconvenient to hold this event on New Year’s Eve itself as many of us had other parties that we wanted to go to on the coveted night of December 31st.

So we changed when we held our party to whatever was most convenient for us! This year it was on December 27th to 28th. We were unfortunately forced to choose between one of our friends from San Diego and one from San Jose in who could attend as they had opposite schedules of availability. We ended up choosing the San Diego friend as we see him less often with an additional gathering at the San Jose friend’s house on January 3rd.

After greeting each other with hugs we started the night off with a game of Pirateer where we collect treasure and booty. We moved on to a game of Brittania that lasted… 6 hours. Quite long for a game that is supposed to last 2 hours. Brittania is a Risk-like game that simulates all the invasions of Britain from the Romans to the Normans. It’s a lot of fun, but sometimes it takes FOREVER.

After that we got some pasta for dinner (at 11:30PM) and played a few fast games of Tsuro. This was a new one for me. It’s kind of like the old video game Snake where you don’t want you guy to go off the edge. You have tiles that you lay down in front of your token as you move around a 6-6 map. The tiles decide where you go and also where any of the other players go once they touch that tile. You try to get your opponents to crash off the edge of the map while keeping room for you to continue playing tiles until the board is full.

Next up was a drinking version of Liar’s Dice. That’s the game they play in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie where they bet on how many dice are underneath each person’s cup. In the movie they only play one round, but in our version we play several rounds. If you lose one round, you take a die out from your cup and roll with one less die. You lose the game if you lose all your dice. You can probably guess how we added in a drinking game aspect to Liar’s Dice. Whenever you lose a round, take a drink. When you lose all your dice, finish your drink.

We played Resistance which is a Mafia-like game. The game’s complexity isn’t in the roles like in Town of Salem, but more in how information is gathered. We had five people playing and with five people there are three Resistance members and two Spies. The Resistance wants to complete three out of five missions. I was one of the two Spies and our goal was to sabotage three out of five missions.

If a Spy goes on a mission they can choose to sabotage it or not. Everyone votes on proposed teams for each mission and the Resistance attempts to figure out who the Spies are by seeing which missions failed and who was on the missions that failed. Meanwhile, the Spies sow strife and discord amongst the Resistance by spreading misinformation and lies. I’m quite good at that so my Spy partner and I won.

At some point we played a little bit of Hearthstone and unlocked the Fireside Gathering card back. It’s awesome and I love it, even though I lost all three matches I played to get it.

We went to sleep around 4:30. I woke up at 8:30 and everyone else was up again around 10. We ate some hot breakfast and moved on to the last game of Fake New Year’s, Zombies.

Zombies attempts to simulate most zombie movies. The hordes are coming and you and your friends either have to eliminate the zombie threat or make it to a helicopter and get out of town. We play with a lot of house rules that usually result in everyone dying to the zombie hordes. This time only I died early on in the game. Four other people would have made it to the helicopter, but my Spy partner from before tripped someone to stall the zombies. The tripped person valiantly fought off the horde against his will and bought time for the other three to escape.

We ended the game extravaganza and headed back home. A great night of fun for everyone (except the San Jose friend who couldn’t make it)!

-Mister Ed