Tag Archives: Mars

“Waypoint Kangaroo” by Curtis C. Chen

kangaroo

A pretty fun, light read after John C. Wright.

Kangaroo (secret agent code name) has a superpower: he can open a portal to another universe, which is completely empty.  Makes it perfect for storing or smuggling stuff!  He is also employed by a sort-of future CIA.  A few hundred years or so into the future, colonized Mars has recently become independent following a brutal war with Earth.  Now, Kangaroo is on a (Disney-esque) cruise ship bound for Mars, ostensibly on vacation, albeit one forced on him by his boss.

It turns out that there is something sinister afoot.  A few murders, a hijacking, and a threat to re-ignite the Mars-Earth war keep the story moving at a pretty good clip.  Lots of humorous dialog.

My gripes (which are pretty modest) are 1) the stolen items out of cargo didn’t really need to be in the story and 2) the love interest fell for Kangaroo rather quickly – I kept thinking that she would turn out to be some bad guy trying the seduction angle on our hero, but nope.  She just falls in love at the drop of a hat, I guess.

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“The Martian” by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014

This is an engineering fairy tale, and it was pretty awesome.  In the not too distant future, astronaut Mark Watney is part of the third(?) manned Mars landing.  Fairly early into their mission, a severe dust storm forces the crew to leave the planet early via their prepped MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle?) and then dock with the mothership Hermes for the long journey back home.  Tragically, Watney is injured in the chaotic evacuation, presumed dead by the crew, and abandoned as the others barely escape on the MAV with their own lives.

However, Watney isn’t really dead… Now he has to find a way to survive until he can be rescued.  Oh, and the same storm took out his communications equipment, so he cannot talk to Earth.  Luckily he’s got the Hab for living in and several month’s worth of food.  And a couple of rovers.  The next Mars mission is scheduled to land about 3000 km way in about four years, but other than that there is little to hope for.

Watney performs numerous engineering heroics to overcome these and other disasters which crop up.  It’s an exciting story, and just about nails an appropriate level of detail on the science bits.  Nothing Watney does is magical or unexplained; it’s all based on scientific fact and more or less current NASA engineering practices.  But the book stays exciting and doesn’t get too dry and boring, even while going over the details.  There are actually quite a lot of funny bits, too.

I wish I was half the engineer that Watney was … he had the knowledge and was able to apply it when it counted during a crisis.  That’s the key – knowing stuff when it really counts.


The Martian is available from Amazon.

Scuba diving in Lake Argyre

Mars is lovely this time of year … ever since they terraformed the planet 300 years ago, tourists have flocked to the beautiful shores of Lake Argyre.  Popular among some divers is the trip down to the bottom to see the old robotic rovers once used to explore the Red Planet’s surface.

The engineers who designed those pioneers had little idea that they would end up at the bottom of a lake…