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Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell
Works at Google
Attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lives in Pasadena, CA
45,593 followers|5,447,833 views


As always, +The Onion​ makes me chortle.

Well, to be fair, sometimes they make me guffaw.
WASHINGTON—Admonishing those responsible for failing to uphold their moral duties, Vice President Mike Pence expressed disappointment Saturday in the 200,000 husbands and fathers who had allowed the women and girls in their charge to attend the Women’s March on Washington.
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I love how the stars of Hidden Figures aren't just promoting their movie, they're promoting STEM careers to girls. And they brought along Diana Trujillo, whom I worked with on Curiosity operations, to help them do it. Hell. Yes.

Via +Adafruit Industries​.
According to the National Science Board, women remain largely underrepresented in the nation’s STEM workforce.
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This is a real place, a moon in our solar system. Here's what it looks like to land there.

This absolutely gorgeous video shows a lander's-eye view of the descent to Saturn's moon Titan. It's rendered from the Huygen's probe's 2005 descent imagery, and boy, is it just spectacular.

Via +Betsy McCall.
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Moon Express is fully funded and has cleared all regulatory hurdles between it and the moon. There's still a lot of risk -- they're relying on a rocket design that's never even flown, for one thing -- and I frankly don't expect it to work out for them. But damn, I'm enjoying watching the race.
Moon Express is one of five teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize.
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It's unfortunate that neither of the recently selected Discovery missions target Venus, even though two such missions were among the six finalists. (As my friend +Doug Ellison​​ has pointed out, all of the missions were worth doing; the only thing holding us back from doing all of them is money.)

But there's clearly interest among NASA's reviewers in revisiting Venus, or you wouldn't have seen those two Venus missions among the finalists. I'd be willing to bet that we'll return to Venus soon, maybe in a New Frontiers mission. Earth's other sister should expect a little love.
“Our community is passionate about Venus, but we’re getting pretty thin.”
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It would be really nice to more data about Venus, especially if probes could be sent to the surface, or at least the atmosphere. 
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SpaceX is cleared to return to flight -- obviously good news for their crewed flight ambitions -- although in true El Reg style, the headline on this story seems a little harsh. :-) Ad astra, y'all!
Original URL: Elon's SpaceX gets permission to blow up another satellite or two. FAA clears Musketeers to, fingers crossed, put whole Iridium birds into orbit. By Iain Thomson. Posted in Science, 6th January ...
Jake Weisz's profile photoWolfgang Rupprecht's profile photo
Let's hope that their fix of keeping the He tank slightly warmer is sufficient to prevent a third incident.
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The other day, I grabbed Starbucks with a Tiananmen Square survivor, then got my hair cut by an Iranian revolution refugee. Whatever else happens, we must preserve this country as the place people flee to, not let it become a place they fly from.
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Gigantic, bow-shaped wave appears in Venus’ atmosphere, lasting days and challenging our understanding of how our neighbor planet's sky works. How cool!
Structure doesn't move with the atmosphere, does challenge our assumptions.
Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell's profile photoMike Crews's profile photo
Ah! It also looks like a bow wave produced by a boat, and sort of like a bow tie, too.
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Gene Cernan was the last human to walk on the moon -- so far. He died today. The best way to remember him will be to send more humans to the moon: let him not be the last ever.
Godspeed to the last man on the moon, Gene Cernan. #RIPGeneCernan
Remembering Gene Cernan
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Thanks for carefully, unambiguously and correctly phrasing that he was the last to walk on and leave the moon, as opposed to the last of the moonwalkers to die. I've been irrationally annoyed today by the endless list of articles that - whether or not deliberate - used a more ambiguous phrasing.

(Side note: the last person to arrive on the moon was his crewmate and command lunar module pilot, Harrison Schmitt​; he is still alive).
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[I'm not sure it's possible to spoil Hidden Figures in the normal sense, based as it is on historical events. But, whatever, spoilers.]

I was so hoping this movie would be good. So hoping. As it turns out, well, if anyone tells you this movie is delightful, wonderful, inspiring, triumphant ... they're underselling it badly. It's way better than that.

As you surely know already, it tells the intertwined stories of three African-American women, all employed as mathematicians at NASA Langley during the early days of the space race. These women faced all the burdens any mathematician, scientist, or engineer did at the time -- and a whole lot more, for interrelating reasons of sex, class, and race.

Race is, of course, never far from the consciousness of this movie. Police dogs snarl at anti-segregation protesters just across the street from one of our main characters, Dorothy, who's just smuggled a precious computer programming book out of a whites-only library. Another main character, Katherine, must run half a mile back and forth across Langley's campus every time she needs to use the facility's only colored ladies' room -- in high heels, too!

One of the most emotionally affecting moments for me came when our third viewpoint character has to talk a judge (he's white, of course) into letting her attend engineering night classes at a local segregated school. I was torn between my wordless fury that she'd have to beg anyone for her rights -- and my enormous admiration for how masterfully, how coolly, how confidently she does it.

And yet Hidden Figures is not just a movie about race -- it's also a movie about the space race, with all that that entails. As they're struggling with issues of race, these women -- and the white men and women they work with -- are struggling to succeed against the Russians, too, to put satellites and then men into orbit. You feel the stakes keenly, and when the triumphs come, you can glimpse the pride they must have all felt knowing it was their work, their brains that underlay that success. That's John Glenn in space, and he's there because of my math, damn it!

The movie is just filled with little touches that I adored. On the day of Friendship 7's launch -- the craft that was to make John Glenn the first American in orbit -- the new IBM mainframe spits out an incompatible set of numbers. The Langley boss is urgently discussing this with Glenn by phone, and Glenn asks for the numbers to be cross-checked by Katherine, our heroine mathematician, whose intellectual prowess Glenn had earlier admired in a meeting. Telling the Langley boss which person he means, Glenn says, "You know, the smart one."

Not "the Negro one," as so many at the time might have said. The smart one. If the movie has a quietly defining moment, it might be that. Space is hard, and it doesn't care about irrelevancies like race or sex. Just brains, and persistence. Our heroines have that in spades, and it's why they succeed.

It's also why the movie succeeds -- the brains and persistence, and the undeniable humanity, of its main characters are uplifting. Genuinely -- and I often distrust this word -- but genuinely inspirational.

In case you couldn't tell, I loved, loved, loved this movie. And even having said all this, I still feel like I'm underselling it badly. Go see it.
A must-see film about using math to overcome adversity and send humans into orbit
Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell's profile photoHelen Read's profile photoIan Petersen's profile photo
Weird, it got all dusty in the room I was in, too.
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Not actually by the great John Cleese, but I sure wish it were. Read it anyway, immediately (pronounced "im-ME-jit-ly").
Best news in days!

Via +Daphne Sylk​
A Letter To the US from John Cleese To the citizens of the United States of America, in light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.
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John Baez's profile photoTobias Thierer's profile photoScott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell's profile photo
+Tobias Thierer Oh, sheesh, I hadn't heard about that. Well ... he's still funny ....
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NASA's next two Discovery-class missions, Lucy and Psyche (neither name is an acronym), were announced today: both will explore asteroids. Lucy will visit Jupiter's "Trojan" asteroids, the ones that keep it company in its orbit, while Psyche will visit a metal asteroid -- with an eye toward mining, I speculate.
NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation.
Mike Cameron's profile photo
Usually NASA/JPL has a good sense of humor (sending Juno to go "check on" Jupiter) when it comes to naming probes. Psyche was (IIRC) a thing of beauty that gained Venus' ire for luring attention away from Venus herself. Is this probe to distract us from something else? I know Lucy is/was the remains of a proto-human. A cursory search yields little else... I'm curious to know why it is named that specifically.

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Collections Scott is following
Site Reliability Engineer
  • Google
    Site Reliability Engineer, 2013 - present
  • JPL
    Mars Rover Driver Team Lead, 2013
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Pasadena, CA
Rocky Mount, NC - Seminole, FL - Greenville, NC - Champaign, IL
I'm a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory.
On a small red light in the night sky lives four hundred pounds of thinking metal sent from Earth.  Once upon a time, I told that metal what to do.

(Disclaimer: my opinions are mine, not my employer's.  Duh. :-)
Bragging rights
I fought cancer and won. I had a robot on another planet, and I drove it around and made it do stuff. I was a trending topic on Twitter. I wrote a book. I took a privacy case all the way to the Supreme Court. Now I keep Google up and running. But I'm just this guy, you know?
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Computer Science
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@marsroverdriver on Twitter
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Fast (roughly 10Mbps symmetric), free wi-fi. Unfailingly upbeat, pleasant, helpful staff. I slept great in the super-comfy bed; I was a little worried about their proximity to the freeway, but I couldn't hear it at all. I parked myself in the spacious lobby for a few hours the next day, well past checkout time, to work on my laptop, with zero complaints (and even the occasional helpful suggestion) from the staff. Breakfast was fine (and free), parking was good, and the price was (relatively speaking) low. My single complaint about the place was the shower. This can't possibly be the typical experience, but the amount of cold water coming from my shower varied with time, so that it went from boiling to comfortable to freezing and back, over and over. Only by carefully, continuously managing it was I able to finish up. Other than that one complaint, though, I was completely happy with my stay, and I would definitely stay here again.
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