Odd moments of eternity

Elon Musk makes future happen yesterday. If things keep accelerating at the same (s)pace, chances are my grandchildren will be conceived in a drive-in movie on planet Mars, sitting in a vintage Tesla Roadster.

Here’s my small dataviz of him doing BIG things! Take a look at the interactive Tableau Public version here.

SpaceX launches (1)

His history in my making

The idea came from our marketing department at Starschema to make a viz of all the Falcon launches from 2010 to the most recent one on February 22, 2018. As there was no ready-made database on this topic, I had to create one, merging the information on the SpaceX website and Wikipedia. To visualize something space related has long gone into labor in my head, as I purchased some incredible icon sets from DigitalArtsi and Gaynor Garradice on Etsy. I instantly had the whole viz ready in my head, leaving me one challenge to solve… putting my imagination into reality.

Challenges I faced

There are two things that describe how I work: first – learn by doing, second – steal with pride. My initial idea was to visualize the SpaceX launches in a coxcomb chart, for what I tried to use a funny Tableau dashboard of the Bill Murray films to copy the method of making. 6 hours later, I only had the outline of the chart drawn, but no major breakthrough. At that time, I realized I wanted to make a sunburst chart instead. This is my way of working: trial and error, spending hours figuring out how this or that works, then throwing everything out into the garbage and starting over.

When it comes to Tableau vizzes, I like to steal from the SuperDataScience guys the most, cause I think they make top-notch tutorials. I was doing everything they told me in the video, but the result still didn’t look any similar to what I had in my mind. Soon realized, this is because I needed 3 circles (year, month and date), but only have data for those months when there was a SpaceX launch. As a solution, I had to turn the database inside out to add the blank months as well… and there came an other obstacle. I used the count of rockets shot in space as values for each data point, but what number should I give for the months, when nothing happened? After an hour of thinking I decided to put one for all months, and (n-1) if there were more than one launches. This would have distorted my data, but I only needed this middle circle to hold my outer ring, that contains the launch dates. By the time I managed to put this into action, it was 1 AM in the morning.

After catching a few hours of sleep…

I started to make the chart more attractive visually, coloring all the items in the sunburst one by one. Then came design obstacles… The background of worksheets is not transparent in Tableu, so I had to get rid of the beautiful starry sky at the back of my dashboard. Finally I decided on having a blackish canvas and enchanting the little stars myself on it. I’ll always remember to reach for the stars and never settle with anything less than what I’ve imagined.

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