Just finished “The Martian” book

What a terrific read! I know, where have I been… I haven’t even seen the movie; my friend Charles loaned me the book last week and I read it today. All the way from Sol 6 to Sol 549. Weir hit it out of the park!
Loads of fun, well done from a general science-y point of view, and gave a generally fair picture of aspects of NASA that were coherent with this old JPLer’s memory. NASA has its extreme bureaucracy, but when the scientists, mission designers, engineers and marvelous machinists (gotta have those marvelous machinists) got running on a project, the enthusiasm and expertise was awesome.
In 1990, I switched over from Division 33, Section 333 Communications Ground Systems, to Section 336, Spacecraft Telecommunications Equipment, to help build Earth-orbiting radars and, later, transponders (two-way data radios) for Mars-, Jupiter-, and Saturn-bound missions. Ultimately I got to lead a group within 336, Spacecraft Transponders; we had a tremendous assortment of projects going on in the group of about 25 to 30 engineers, scientists and technicians.
While reading the book today, I had to trace the character Mark Watney’s sojourn across Mars to get and keep my bearings. Fortunately, someone at JPL had already taken care of that and I was able to scope the important spots out by using the Mars Trek app in my browser!

Average climate data site


Did you know that the average annual temperature here in Phoenix is 75.05 °F? That’s actually lower than Miami and significantly higher than Dallas. The site doesn’t provide any statistics on the annual variability, there’s not even a standard deviation (SD). I’d expect Miami to have a small SD compared to Dallas, and Dallas’ SD smaller than that of Phoenix.

Here at the house, just this year, we had a low of about 28 °F in January, and a high of 118 °F in June. A 90 °F range. Historically, during the time we’ve been here the lowest low I’ve recorded was 22 °F (February 2006) and the highest high perhaps 119 °F.

Back in 1990, the highest high ever recorded in Phoenix was 122 °F. And in 1913, the lowest low ever recorded was 16 °F, making for a span of 106 °F, which is pretty impressive.