The WeMartians Blog

Other items of interest from the fourth planet

We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary of the first ever WeMartians episode. Since then, we’ve interviewed astronauts, watched spacecraft leave Earth, and met the NASA Administrator. We’ve built studios together and partnered with my friend Anthony to create the Off-Nominal podcast. Growing this hobby into what it is today has been a wild ride, and I have so many ideas to make it bigger, better and more interesting. But balancing continued growth of this hobby alongside a regular career is extremely challenging.

If it remains a hobby.

My first microphone, purchased in December, 2015.

The bottleneck to a bigger and better WeMartians has almost always been time. I’ve done interviews at 5AM (including one just this morning!) just to squeeze it in before work. I’ve locked myself in my studio through entire weekends processing audio, and used vacation time in order to travel to conferences and launches. It’s been possible, but not easy. The threat of burnout has been nipping at my heels for probably years now.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching these past few months, and it became increasingly clear that something had to give. My life could not continue doing both the podcast and my day job, and so I made a terrifying, crazy decision.

I left my job.

A Career Change

For the past 11 years I have been working for the electronics retailer Best Buy, most recently as a manager for a small team that operationalized their quirky services division (Geek Squad) for the Canadian markets. At Best Buy I had a remarkable and fulfilling career that has given me a tremendous amount of confidence and a skillset that I think will be invaluable as I look to make this podcast into a real business. They have great people, and they made me a great person, too.

I was a company man.

With Best Buy behind me, I went looking for work with two distinct characteristics. I want to keep building skills that will help me make a better product here at WeMartians, and I want a job that I can do flexibly. I want to set my own hours and do the work from home or wherever I happen to be. For me, that job is web development. And so starting in January I’m off to top up my education, skill up in the workforce, and start building a freelancing career, of which this podcast will play a prime role.

It’s tremendously exciting for me, if a little scary. But just like in space, nothing extraordinary was ever achieved without a little risk.

What does this mean for the show?

For now, expect very little change. We’ll still be publishing WeMartians (roughly) every three weeks and our Red Planet Review show every week. But you might notice some dodgy consistency in the days and times as I work to build a whole new career from scratch.

Finances will also be tight for me in the short term (but don’t worry, you can help – see below). So some immediate impacts that long time listeners will notice will be a reduction in travel (no LPSC for me this year), as well as no WeMartians Travel Grant awarded in 2020. These are tough sacrifices for me, but I see them as essential for the long-term future.

Hopefully by the summer things will start to get back to normal, and then the real work can begin.

How can the listeners help?

WeMartians is a listener-funded project, for which I am eternally grateful. Now more than ever, I will depend on that funding; in fact, starting in just a couple of weeks, money I earn through the Podcast will literally be my only income.

And so to celebrate this exciting milestone for me (and to help plug some of the holes in my balance sheet!), I’ve set up some limited time offers for listeners to join in and invest in this show.

Patreon Goals

Over on Patreon, I’ve set up some new exciting milestones for patrons and listeners if we reach certain goals over the next year. This time, the goals are focused around rewards for you. If we reach certain quantities of supporters, I’ll be creating bonus content for everyone to enjoy. From a video tour of the Off-Nominal Studio to audio documentaries on rockets and Mars missions, there are some cool stuff in there! You can read about them on our Patreon page.

Patreon Special Offer

If the goals don’t excite you, I’m also sweetening the deal for anyone new who signs up on Patreon as well as anyone who upgrades their pledges. For a limited time (until January 3rd), you’ll get a bonus perk for joining up or upgrading your pledge to the $5 level: a handwritten postcard from me, including a shoddily drawn Mars spacecraft and some WeMartians and Off-Nominal Stickers!

Merchandising Offers

We’re also hosting a great sale in our newly redesigned shop this month. The Black Friday Sale is winding down tonight, but starting now you’ll get access to a whole new offer – free shipping anywhere on Earth if you buy any two items! Just use the promo code GOINGPRO.

I’m broke but I still want to help!

No problem. There’s actually something amazing you can do if Patreon or a purchase in our shop doesn’t float your boat. Tell a friend about us!

Most podcasts spread through word of mouth and exposure on other podcasts. Consider writing a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your show. Post your favourite episode on Facebook or Twitter. Or, seriously, just tell a friend you think might like us. It goes a long way in building the listener base.

This is just the beginning

WeMartians & Off-Nominal are the most fulfilling and incredible projects I’ve ever done. Thousands of you now tune in for each episode, something I am incredibly grateful for. I am so excited to step in to this new future together, and I hope you’ll all come along for the ride.

Ad ares!

Well, it might not be as cold as it is on Mars, but winter is here, and that means so is Black Friday!

We’ve got a site-wide sale on all WeMartians Merchandise! From Nov 27 to Dec 2, enjoy 10% off everything in our shop! Use the code BLACKFRIDAY19 to unlock the deals.

Enjoy all sale pricing on all of our tees, including classics like BRB Going to Mars.

We still have some limited stock of our WeMartians 2018 Mission Patch, featuring exclusive art by Beth Kerner.

The Rosalind Franklin Rover is headed to Mars next summer, and it needs to call home with all it’s awesome science! The Trace Gas Orbiter, featured on our ExoMars Technicolour design, will help!

Don’t forget to pack your Winter Space Helmet for those long nights in Vastitas Borealis.

And of course, our all-time bestseller Twenty Seven, featuring the engine configuration of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the most capable rocket flying today.

Black Friday prices are over at midnight Monday night, so be sure to take advantage now!

When I started putting together this podcast in late 2015, I forced myself to come up with a mission statement. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I use it to keep on track and focused as we continue to grow, change, and move forward into the future of Mars exploration.

Our mission statement? To engage the public in the exploration of Mars in a fun, simple, educational and inspiring way.

Today, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time is coming to life. We’ve got our mission. But every mission deserves a mission patch.

This is the Season 3 (2018) commemorative WeMartians Mission Patch. We’ve partnered with space fan and talented graphic artist Beth Kerner to put together a custom, 4-inch, sew-on embroidered patch. It’s limited edition, with a print-run of just 100. And you can get one for yourself starting today! They’re just $17 USD, and shipping is free anywhere on Earth (Mars is extra, though). If you’re a Station-level or higher patron, your permanent store discount applies, too!

The patch captures the broad narratives of our third season of podcasts. It includes the Falcon Heavy inaugural flight, the InSight launch and landing, and the global dust storm that ended the Opportunity mission.

The Artist: Beth Kerner

I met Beth at the NASA InSight launch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California (we both got to “see” the launch, a tale I tell in Episode 41). She does some pretty incredible design work including unique mission logos and patches, like this awesome InSight one:

Plus, Beth and her twin Kathy have matching Spirit and Opportunity rover tattoos, and if you don’t think that’s cool then leave the website immediately.

You should check out Beth’s website, and if you think she’s awesome (you do) you can even sign up for her Patreon. At the $10 level, you get awesome stickers and other goodies in the mail! Or, head over to her Redbubble shop and pick up some sweet swag.

Thanks for your Support

I hope to do this every year, allowing our listeners to collect the stories of our shows through time in a fun memorable way. So if you decide to pick one up and sew it somewhere cool, please send me some pics! I’d love to see where you show your love for Mars.

Your support goes towards helping me do more with this show, and it helps an amazing artist like Beth to keep making great space art. It’s a win-win!


We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 WeMartians Travel Grant is Áine O’Brien from the University of Glasgow, UK.

Mars, Meteorites, and Life

O’Brien is a PhD student looking for complex organic matter in Martian meteorites. Her work using electron microscopy and mass spectroscopy seeks to find organic carbon inside the meteorites and determine if it was native to Mars or if it came from another place. Carbon can be a key ingredient for the creation of amino acids and potentially life. Therefore, it’s of high importance to understand it as best we can! Her work will also help inform the upcoming instruments on board both NASA’s Mars2020 rover and ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover.

She’ll be presenting her work in an oral presentation as part of an astrobiology session of the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. You can read her abstract, The Effect of Shock and Raman Laser Irradiation on the Maturity of Organics in Martian Meteorites, here. She is also presenting a poster on diversity of student space programs in the UK.

Outreach and Funding

O’Brien is committed to outreach, volunteering and diversity initiatives. She’s a former physics teacher and a STEM ambassador, running science activity days at schools across the UK since 2011. She has delivered talks at the Glasgow Science Centre Planetarium and organized events for Pint of Science. She is secretary of the UKSEDS organization (UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space). There, she helps manage various initiatives including SpaceCareers.uk and the Diversity in Space Careers event. She also serves on her university’s Athena SWAN committee. She organizes career mentoring events that advance the careers of women in STEM and make the department more inclusive.

As an attendee arriving from out of country, O’Brien’s travel costs for LPSC are non-trivial. As a PhD student, she has a small stipend to help pay for lab costs and travel. However, her work has advanced to a point where the current lab equipment is no longer sufficient. Her next step is to extract carbon from tiny meteorite samples without spoiling the samples with any Earth contaminants. Thus, the lab has absorbed these funds for the purchase of ultra-clean hydrogen pyrolysis equipment. This has left her without travel funds at a critical part of her PhD research. We hope that the WeMartians Travel Grant will bridge that funding gap and ensure this important research is presented in Houston!

Final Grant Amount

Thanks to the generous support of the WeMartians patrons and everyone who purchased our Planetary T-Shirt, the grant amounted to a total of $800 USD. The shirts will remain available for sale, with all proceeds going to next year’s grant.

We’d like to thank everyone who applied for the grant. It was a difficult decision to choose one winner among a tremendous field of applicants. Nonetheless, we are ecstatic to present Áine O’Brien with this award. Look forward to more about her and her work on the podcast soon!

January ended up being a pretty productive month for the renovation of the Off-Nominal studio. I’m excited to share with you today the centrepiece of the entire process – the studio desk.

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of room for desk space in the new studio. This was the wall it’s going up against.

This is the east-facing wall. The studio desk will go along this wall, and the monitor setup in the right-hand corner. The room has a beautiful deep window working for it here, and a nice baseboard heater to warm my feet in the cold Canadian winter.

Shopping for Desks

My entire adult life I have dreamed of getting a huge desk. I’m the kind of creative that enjoys splaying everything out in front of me and having quick access to everything I need in my process. I’ve imagined a huge space for doing drawings or visual drafts, creating LEGO sets, building model rockets or even just writing with a bunch of reference material around me.

Never have I actually had that chance – this wall is 12 feet wide and the room is dedicated to a workspace. This was it!

I knew I wanted a natural wood look to fit with the modern style I was going for. It would be something warm and living to contrast the monochromatic tech look of the rest of the room. So I started by checking for pre-made desks that I could just buy at Ikea or something. Most of the common stuff for sale is small, like this:

A simple desk.

I had the option of putting two of them next to each other but something didn’t seem right. But, I could never find a leg situation I liked, and I didn’t want a seam in the middle. I wanted something bigger and I wanted it to be one piece.

Ikea also sells some butcher block countertops that could be repurposed as a desk. This one was something I wrestled with for a long time:

A butcher block countertop.

It’s 98 inches long and would require custom built cabinets or legs underneath it. It was definitely better than some of the pre-built stuff I was looking at, but I had another problem. It turns out 98 inches, a little over 8 feet or about 2.5 metres, was too short still. Because of the layout of the electrical outlets, the baseboard heater, and the placement of a future bar fridge, I either had to go shorter (which I didn’t want to compromise on) or longer (which put it out of the range of the countertops available). I was stuck!

Becoming a Carpenter

Finally, I drew up some courage and started researching the process of building my own desk. I live in British Columbia – good lumber is not hard to come by. What would I need to learn in order to build my own? Turns out it wasn’t as daunting as I expected. After a few YouTube videos, some sketches, and some consulting with my wife (who is fearless when it comes to home reno projects), we decided to go for it.

We cleaned the place out. You might say the wood was very poplar.

We started with our wood choices. At our local Home Depot there were a few to choose from. I liked the quality of Maple, but we thought it was a bit too red. And the Pine was cheap, but I’ve worked with it before and never liked the stuff for anything but crafting. With big pieces there is a lot of warping.

We settled on Poplar, which had some pretty straight, good-looking boards, had a nice cool tone to it, and was within our budget.

Starting with the Legs

The desk was going to have two waterfall-style legs, which is to say the same design used on the top it just tilted 90 degrees to form a leg, as if the surface flows over a cliff. The basic idea is to lay the planks side by side and join them with pocket holes. To do this, we used a jig made by Kreg that is pretty popular.

Drilling a hole with the Kreg jig

The little device clamps to the wood, and then you use a supplied drill bit to hollow out an angled pocket hole.

A pocket hole.

Then you just screw it together.

*drill sounds*

And voilà, a few holes down the line you’ve joined two planks together. All in, the desk was going to be six planks deep (around 30 inches).

Here’s a shot of the progress for the leg pieces.

Once the planks were assembled, I got to use a new power tool, my circular saw. This was to cut the long board in half to make the two legs.

Shout-out to the Interplanetary Podcast!

I actually had a little trouble here. The first couple cuts I made were incredibly crooked. I thought at first I was using the tool wrong and did some training on YouTube. But I knew what I was doing – I had a clamped down guide and was standing and holding everything right.

Finally I figured it out – turns out I had made a rookie mistake in just using the blade that came with the tool. It was entry level, and not straight at all. A quick trip to the hardware store and I had a better quality finishing blade that made a nice clean cut.

Once I had the legs separated, I wanted to reinforce them and straighten them with some cross-beams. The pocket hole technique tends to cause “cupping” where the wood curls inward with the angle of the screw. Some perpendicular pieces would cure it.

A fully-constructed waterfall leg.

And just like that, I had two legs done!

Ten feet or Bust

Finally it was on to the desktop itself. The length would end up just shy of 10 feet, which created the logistical challenge of putting it together with boards that were 6 or 8 feet long. There would be seams not only length-wise, but width-wise as well. So I had to plan it out on paper, cut the pieces to their appropriate size, then lay them out to make sure I hadn’t goofed up.

We decided to connect the planks together end to end first before assembling them side by side, which gave us something like this:

We used the same pocket holes to connect the planks end to end.

Then it was back to work creating pocket holes with the jig, and one by one adding on planks to the desk. We had to get some pretty big clamps to accommodate the growing width.

Final assembly shown below. You can really see the warp in the piece because of how long it is and how the pocket holes aren’t entirely strong enough. Some of the seams were not great, but they were workable. Overall we were pretty happy with the result considering this was our first really big carpentry project.

We added a few cross-wise supports on this one too, though some of them had to be temporary and would be replaced by the legs or mounting hardware.

Finally – we added some nice thick trim to the desk, both on the leg fronts and the two edges of the tabletop that will not abut a wall. This creates the illusion that the desk is thicker and heavier than it actually is.

And here’s the finished desktop, without legs, but otherwise fully assembled. It is really starting to look like a real product now!

Finish Him

With the pieces assembled, it was time to work on the finishing. First up, was a tremendous amount of sanding, which was made easier thanks to the fancy new orbital sander we bought. Oh, and we had to take all the UPC stickers off the wood first!

We did three passes of sanding. The first was a heavy grit meant to take down the rough edges of the seams. Then a medium grit to really smooth out the roughness of the wood. Finally, a high grit finishing pass to make it smooth to the touch.

With the sanding done, we needed to treat it. We looked at a lot of different finishes. You can use polyurethane to add a protective coating, but this makes it kind of shiny and makes it difficult to touch up later. The other option was an oil, which would seal it, add some colour (or at least bring out the grain), and protect it. The nice thing about oil is that if there is damage later, you can just spot fix it with the same stuff without tearing apart the whole area.

I did some research on oils and after looking at the options and how poplar reacted, we settled on Tung Oil. One can was all we needed, and it just goes on with a brush. After 15 minutes of soaking in, you wipe it off and wait 24 hours. I think we did about 4 coats (some of the areas were very thirsty).

Here’s a look at the desk with one or two coats done.

You can really see how the oil brings out the grain and gives it some warmth.

Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations

At last, after two months of occupying my garage, it was time to come upstairs and settle in to the new studio. In the meantime we had finished the painting, and new baseboards, so it was ready to receive it’s permanent occupant.

After hauling it up two flights of stairs (exciting), we laid it on the floor to assemble it. The far left side was going to have both legs, forming a sort of box/cage to house a mini-fridge.

This is the desk face down. The cross beams on the floor are just for lining up the connections. They will eventually move to the back for stability.

After some fun finagling it together, we completed the box structure.

Then we lifted it up! There was a fun challenge of keeping it upright while we built in the support brackets. We needed something to hold the weight, but be adjustable so we could level the desk to find out where the supports had to be positioned on the wall. The perfect tool? My camera tripod, seen below.

To support the massive span, I started with an end-brace mounted into the studs on the wall.

The end-brace also serves as a crossbeam support to straight the cupping in the wood (hence the six pocket holes straight up). You can also see my blue tape marking studs.

Then across the main span, two 20 inch wall brackets (the biggest I could find). They don’t cover the entire 30 inches of desk, but they cover most of it.

The desk is pretty stable, but it is definitely operating near the edge of the envelope. When I lean on it with my elbows, I can hear the drywall creak a little. But I don’t care, ’cause the desk is in, the desk is up. I was so excited and impatient that I ended up building my setup way sooner than was practical. Here is the desk just prior to the recording of Off-Nominal 16. It felt really good to get the microphone back up!

Needs fewer dongles.

How’s this for a mousepad?

It’s been a while since I last updated the story of the new studio renovation. Two months in fact! The truth is, I ended up getting really sick in November with a bad viral infection.

The face of death.

I missed three weeks of work and struggled to keep up with…anything…really. Thankfully, that’s behind me now, and so are the holidays. I’m easing back in to studio renovation and wanted to share a short but super cool update on some products that arrived in the mail.

Acoustics Matter

Of course, if I want to record audio in the studio, the acoustics of the room are super important. This became painfully obvious as I recorded a few episodes of Red Planet Review in the empty room with laminate floors. Everything echoed.

It will get better with furniture and a rug or two, but as I went over the design I realized there will still be a giant flat wall behind me at my desk. Without treatment it would become a strong source of second bounces that I wanted to eliminate (first bounces will be off the wall in front of me).

The Bouncer

My good friend and podcasting life partner Anthony from Main Engine Cut Off recommended a company that makes acoustic panelling called ATS Acoustics. They make all shapes and sizes of panels but are pretty plain and wouldn’t really lend any thematic support to my space studio. This was especially important because this wall would appear behind me when I streamed or did video conversations with guests.

Their stock panels look like this:

Boring Panels

However, I noticed they also make custom art-print panels. This meant I could pick any kind of image I want and have them stick it on a panel. Perfect! That’s easy, there are tons of amazing space pictures to choose from. In fact, there are so many, it’s actually its own problem. How do I even choose?! Well, first I had to figure out the format, and for this I turned to my trusty Discordians in the Off-Nominal Discord.

Picking Panels

I started with three options for layout.

Option A could make for some really nice panoramas. I thought about picking two great Curiosity panorama made using its Mastcam, like the awesome one that was printed along a huge wall at LPSC last March.

Option C would give me the largest canvas to work with. It would be great for a super high res image, like maybe some of the great Pluto shots from New Horizons, or a beautiful HRSC shot from Mars Express, like the recent one making the rounds of Korolev Crater:

Korolev Crater, Mars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

In the end, I settled on Option B with the help of my patrons in the Discord. It would offer me lots of space for high detail, but give me the flexibility of having two separate images. Each panel would be two feet wide and three feet tall. Now I just had to pick the images.

A Space for Space

One image processor I’ve always been a fan of is Seán Doran (Twitter: @_TheSeaning) out of London, England. Seán does all kinds of incredible work with publicly available image data, like portraits of Mars, rendered flybys using digital terrain modelling of places like Jezero Crater, and even stitched Juno images of Jupiter to create a simulated video of a perijove.

I settled on the idea of using the two frames to create a juxtaposition, a duality of places that I think fits well with the podcast themes: The Moon and Mars. One, a place we’ve been and hope to go back to again, and another, a place on the horizon. These two worlds have lived in contrast to one another for a long time and I wanted to encapsulate that debate behind me.

Seán has done work on both places, so I was in luck. I picked out two of my favourite pieces and contacted him about licensing. Just my luck, he’s super cool and let me print the pieces for whatever licensing price he thought was fair. I was happy to send a little cash his way, because it was totally worth it when these showed up at my door.

Fresh custom acoustic panels. My cat Admiral Fitzwallace was not interested.

Mounting the Planets

Now I had the fun task of getting these puppies on the wall. Started with some painter’s tape to get a rough idea of where I wanted them. This is a useful skill my wife taught me to easily visualize things.

ATS sends great templates to help with mounting. So I stuck it to the wall and levelled it. Then you just drill the holes out where they say to!

Each hole was fitted with an anchor and then the special included Z-clips were affixed to the wall. Rinse and repeat for the second panel. It was extra fun lining up the anchors so they were not only level but matching themselves in height.

The backs of the panels are then fitted with the same Z-clips, but flipped upside down. This way, they slot in to each other.

And just like that the hard part was over. The two panels went up super quick and were steady and level.

Voilà! Now it not only sounds good in here, but future WeMartians guests will stare at Seán’s lovely work throughout their interviews. That should improve the content, right?

A year ago we set a Patreon goal in order to fund a travel grant that would help an early career scientist travel to a conference and present their work on Mars. Last March, we gave a preview of what the grant might look like. Today, thanks to the generous support of the WeMartians Patrons, the Grant is a reality.

Starting immediately, attendees of the upcoming Lunar and Planetary Science Conference are invited to apply for the WeMartians Travel Grant.

Why are we doing this?

WeMartians mission statement is to engage the public in the exploration of Mars in a simple, fun, educational and inspiring way. Funding early career scientists as they pursue a life exploring Mars seems like the perfect fit. But this is also how the podcast gives back to the science community which has been nothing but generous and gracious with their time, helping me create great content for you to hear.

Why a travel grant?

Conferences like LPSC are excellent opportunities for early career people to network, learn about their trade, and share their work with others. They are hubs for collaboration and contribute significantly to our understanding of the field. WeMartians has connected with many people through LPSC that resulted in interviews for the show.

But they’re expensive! From flights to hotels, transportation, food and registration fees, attending a week-long conference has all the expense of a vacation with none of the relaxation. Research grants don’t always stretch far enough to cover these expenses, leaving many scientists to fund travel themselves.

The WeMartians Travel Grant hopes to alleviate some of these costs.

The poster session of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

You can help!

Even if you’re not already a patron of WeMartians, you can help contribute to the fund by picking up our special edition PLANETARY t-shirt. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the grant, adding to the base award of $750 USD. Pick up the shirt by the end of January to contribute to this year’s award! Purchases after January 31st will go towards the 2020 grant.

If you don’t want the shirt, we’re also accepting donations directly to the grant.

Support the Grant with a Shirt or Donation

I’m heading to LPSC to present my abstract! How can I apply?

The 2019 application period is now over. Stay tuned for next year’s announcement!

The holiday season is here, and to mark the season we’ve got some great new additions to the WeMartians Shop.


Winter Space Helmets!

It’s winter, and that means you could be losing valuable heat energy right out of the top of your head! Ramp up your personal thermal inertia with these new WeMartians branded toques! That’s a knit cap or a beanie if you’re from somewhere other than Canada! Useful even if you don’t live somewhere cold (since it’s always cold on Mars). They’re available for $17 USD now!


New Branded Gear

We’re expanding our branded gear. If you’re a fan of our Patron-exclusive weekly bonus podcast Red Planet Review, you can now sport its newspaper-style logo on a comfy heather grey tee for just $19 USD. Plus, the RPR logo as well as the WeMartians podcast logo are all available in a new tank top style for just $17 USD.


Off-Nominal Tees – Finally!

We’re long overdue, but you can now finally pick up an Off-Nominal Podcast tee-shirt! All proceeds from the sales of these shirts go towards supporting the joint side-project between WeMartians and Main Engine Cut Off, including hosting fees and Off-Nominal Meetups, which happen sporadically. This particular model is on a high quality tri-blend shirt and has an easter egg for the fans!

Plus, now you can cast your vote in the upcoming New Frontiers downselect by choosing a side in the Dragonfly vs. CAESAR debate. Anthony and I did so on episode 4 of Off-Nominal and now you can show your support for whatever mission you’re in to.


ExoMars – Full Colour and Stereo!

We’ve been missing an ExoMars shirt for a while, considering it was the first mission that we covered seriously! Inspired by the full colour and stereo nature of the onboard CaSSIS camera with the Trace Gas Orbiter, we’ve come up with this new colourful design that lets you proudly tell the world you think Mars is pretty. This premium design is just $22 USD and includes reduced shipping costs for European customers.


Of course, all of our famous designs are still available if you haven’t picked these up yet! You might especially want to get your InSight Good Vibes launch tee ahead of its landing in just a couple of weeks! It is still available for $19 USD.

The InSight Good Vibes premium T-Shirt design from WeMartians.

The InSight Good Vibes premium T-Shirt design from WeMartians.

So head over to the Shop today and support an independent Mars podcast! And remember, if you’re a Station-level or higher Patron ($10/month+), you get permanent discounts in our shop year-round!

Welcome to part 3 of our saga to build a new podcast studio! In September I shared part 1 and part 2, covering some of the paint choices and digging into baseboards and trim! It’s been a busy few weeks for me including three conferences and two out of town trips, so I’m a bit behind. Nonetheless, I’m catching up and can share some progress on wire management and some work on our big window!

Wiring in some Cat6 Cabling

I use a Google Wi-Fi mesh network in my home, but for some reason the access point in this office, which is wired into the modem, could not penetrate the floor and reach the living room below very well. So sitting on the couch with an iPad, streaming anything to the TV, or just working on a laptop in the dining room adjacent had really spotty wireless internet. While we had the whole office torn apart, we decided to run some Cat6 cables up the fireplace trunk to provide a wired connection to the access point downstairs. It was quite the challenge.

First in this process was to ensure that we could actually find a path for the Cat6 cabling. I knew there was a gap there for the vent on the gas fireplace and the drain for the washrooms upstairs. My hunch was that this trunk was the backbone of the entire house for electrical, plumbing and ventilation, so there was probably room for two cables.

 

I cut two small holes first. I wanted to keep them below where I knew the baseboard would go to avoid patching. But wow did it make it difficult to navigate. For starters, the bulkhead didn’t line up exactly with the one downstairs so I “missed” by about 8 inches. Inside there were some vents, but also a metal plate to seal the gap between floors. Luckily, there was also a small, 4 inch piece of drywall that had been used to cover one tiny part missing. It felt like corner cutting to me, but I took advantage of it and slipped the cables down in it. But then I had the problem of working downstairs.

So then it was time to route the cabling into its final resting place. Upstairs, I didn’t want to run it through all the studs along the wall, so since I had the baseboard off I cheated and used the gap between the floor and the wall, plus the space under the drywall, to fulfill my needs. Then I wired the two cables into a jack!

Downstairs, I repeated the same thing behind the TV.

New Baseboard Heaters

If you remember from the before shots, there was this original, twenty-year old baseboard heater that had basically been painted in to the wall. We of course tore it out.

This is the east-facing wall. The studio desk will go along this wall, and the monitor setup in the right-hand corner. The room has a beautiful deep window working for it here, and a spot for a nice baseboard heater to warm my feet in the cold Canadian winter (current one is old and bad).

And so we went to work replacing it. By this time we’ve pulled all the baseboards off and removed the old heater.

Dressing the Window

I’m super excited about the big window in the office. It is about 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall, and it’s 9 inches deep, which is perfect for putting cats on.

But then it was on the actual plan. I want this window to pop. I want it to be a feature of the room. I want it to be that bright Humanity Star that blots out your astronomical observations and makes you so mad about how cool it is. My wife had a great idea.

And so off to Home Depot we went. We wanted to put some natural wood feel into the room, since so far it was pretty stark, clinical and monochrome. There would be an eventual tie-in with the desk, too.

Back home it was time to install the plywood!

Because the plywood is so thin it doesn’t interrupt the function of the window or intrude too much into the space of the window sill. But it adds a little bit of life and accent to the feature. To do the rest, the old gross blinds had to come out.

Here’s a shot with the whole window done with the plywood/veneer framing, and the old blinds dead and gone. We’ve also got all the painting done in this photo, though there is still some cutting in to do on the ceiling.

Then, it was time to replace those blinds!

 

Moving on!

That’s for this week. I’m attacking some of the last “constructiony” parts next, and then we can move on in to the really cool space-parts, like decorations and such! Stay tuned!

 

A couple of weeks ago I began sharing a new story; it’s not one about a Mars mission update or a science paper result, but one about a renovation project at a new home I just bought. I’m building a new studio, and I want you, the listeners, to see the progress!

In Part 1, I shared the before shots of the studio and walked through the paint choices. Plus, I replaced the light fixture with a new fan equipped with Philips Hue colour smart lights. Today, I’ll share some updates on the trim, the door frame, and the first piece of furniture.


Baseboards and Door Frames

First, we had some cutting in to do on the paint where the darker accent wall meets the white side walls. I love a clean line.

Then it was on to the trim. If you remember last update, this room (and whole house) has some pretty dated-looking finishing. So we tore it out.

Look at this monstrosity. It was not in great shape, either. The wood was really soft and covered in layers of paint.

The plan is to replace all the baseboards, quarter round, and the door frame, which is where we started. A new thing we’re trying is building a really simple plinth the base of the door frame to give it a little bit of interest. It’s just a wider section of the door frame that’s also taller than the baseboard.

To do all of the trim, I got to use my new chop saw. I got a great deal at Home Depot that included the stand for free, which is a big upgrade for me. I’m accustomed to using these on the floor or a makeshift table. I should probably be wearing safety goggles. Do as I say, not as I do.

So then we framed out the door!

If you ever do baseboards, even just a little, I highly recommend getting a nail gun and compressor. It is seriously a game-changer. Nothing is worse than having to hammer all the nails and then get a tapper to set them in. It’s easier, its faster and it makes my life better.

We laid the rest of the baseboard and then started on the quarter round. We had to add this last piece to extend the baseboard from the wall, as the expansion gap that they left on the floor when they installed it was pretty wide.

This photo gives you a good idea of the expansion gap and why we needed the quarter round.

Finishing touches

The next steps involve using filler to putty up the gaps between the baseboards, the wall and themselves. It’s a bit time-consuming and I don’t have great patience for it so my wife usually handles this part (she is really meticulous and detail-oriented). So I don’t have any photos of this step.

But then you get to paint. We used the exact same paint colour as the white walls, but for the trim we used a different finish. The walls are an eggshell, which is very matte, and the trim is a satin. It’s kind of one step up in glossy-ness. We used semi-gloss in our last house and it was a bit too shiny so we’re toning it down this time.

Here’s a look at the finished product with trim, putty and paint done.

Since the trim is lighter, we over-painted it on the accent wall. Then, we tape the trim and paint the straight line back in the Off-Nominal grey.

The end process lets you have this super-satisfying tape removal moment.

More Electrical!

Also included in this update – some more switch and receptacle changes!

Furniture!

Lastly, we added some furniture. My in-laws are visiting this week so we had to rush and do one half of the room just so we could put the bed down. It’s kind of silly looking but I like to call it parallel development.

It’s an IKEA day-bed that converts into a King-sized bed. Super handy for an office that has to double as a spare room. I also hope it will play a big role in dampening sound that might be echoing off the floors and walls for the podcast.

That’s it for this week! Next, we need to finish all the painting and trim (including the closet) and start thinking about installing the desk, which will be a pretty big, built-in system. But I’ll leave you with one more picture. It’s what I’m considering for the new podcasting chair! What do you think?

It kind of reminds me of the chair that the flight director sits in at ESA’s European Spacecraft Operations Centre in Darmstadt, since it’s so tall. Here’s Michel Denis, who was in charge when ExoMars entered orbit around Mars. Like, it’s a tower.

Ad ares, Martians!