Robert Zimmerman

I have not only been fortunate to write about some of the most exciting moments in space history, I have also had the great and grand fortune to actually go where no one has gone before.

When I was college (around 1974) I stayed up late one night to watch the movie Citizen Kane. When the movie was over I was left breathless with wonder at its clarity of vision. Hungry to see more movies like this, I scanned the television dial and stumbled upon the opening shots of the classic and equally great MGM film, Grand Hotel.

For the next twenty years I dedicated myself to making movies, hoping to create films as entertaining and as meaningful.

Instead, I ended up making a large number of very bad low budget horror films in the New York City area. Sometimes I was the key grip. Sometimes I was the production manager. In later years I wrote screenplays and helped produce several films.

Most of these movies were mindless, mediocre, and completely forgettable. By the mid-nineties I had had enough, and decided to change careers.

During these same years I was also cultivating other interests, almost all of which had to do with the human instinct for exploration. I got a master’s degree, studying early America colonial history because I was curious to learn how the most successful pioneer societies organized themselves. I followed the space program from childhood because I saw it as the future of the human race. (I also thought it was exciting and fun!)

And I got involved in cave exploration, because I simply didn’t have the math skills necessary to make it as a NASA astronaut but still had the desire to explore unknown territory. And from what I could learn, caving was the one physical activity in which it was still possible for ordinary people to go where no one has gone before.

Robert Zimmerman in a Cave
photo by Jim Gildea

Since my first wild cave trip in 1984, I have explored hundreds of caves in the United States, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Ukraine. I have been involved in a number of projects, pushing and surveying virgin cave passages, walking in places previously untouched by human hands. I have even become a cartographer, drawing the maps of the caves I have helped discover and survey.

Once, I was even trapped inside a cave for 10 hours because of a flood.

Even as I was having all these cool adventures, in 1996 I began the slow transition from movie-maker to full time non-fiction science writer. I had decided that — instead of making dismal, violent movies that said nothing positive about human nature — I would focus on telling the exciting stories of scientists, engineers, and astronauts in their never-ending efforts to push the limits of human experience, either as researchers trying to solve the mysteries of nature or as explorers trying to push the unknown.

Today, I have no regrets, having written four inspiring histories about the first forty years of space exploration as well as more than a hundred magazine and newspaper articles about the adventure of science and astronomy. (Even more important, the career change brought me to the Washington, D.C. area, where I was fortunate to meet my wife Diane, who makes everything I do worthwhile. At the same time I also became Bob KB3IWD, gettting my ham radio technician’s license.)

In the next two decades, the human race will begin the actual exploration and settlement of the solar system. I am honored to be able to tell that story, especially because the words I am writing are describing the founding heritage of all future generations — generations who will look back at Earth and see it only as the Old World.

Robert Zimmerman can be reached zimmerman at nasw.org




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  • Paul Marynowych

    goodsearch.com, charityusa.com, isearchigive.com, fundraising-solutions.org, and givingmart.com

  • JIM

    so often C2C has climate deniers on. Since I teach HS science it is exceedingly aggravating when George Noory gives these folks such a vast platform without a voice from the scientific community to present the evidence.

    If you are not a denier I hope you drive home the facts so Noory’s listeners get the majority opinion.



    • The very fact that you use the insulting term “denier” for anyone expressing skepticism in science tells me that you do not understand the scientific process at all. I lost relatives in the Holocaust, and to equate someone who simply has doubts about the accepted global warming paradigm with those who deny the murder of seven million Jews is beyond despicable.

      Please read these two posts from my webpage to get the essence of what I think about climate science:

      Deniers of Science

      Al Gore and the silencing of debate

      I suspect you will not like what I say and will then dismiss it without any thought. Too bad. I speak not from mere opinion but from almost a decade of dedicated research in the state of the climate field. Unlike most people and politicians with opinions about this stuff, I actually have read literally hundreds and hundreds of scientific papers, from all sides, in order to get an understanding of the confusing state of the climate field. My conclusion: no one really understands the climate or knows exactly what is happening, and anyone who claims they do is a downright liar.

  • Howard Hughes

    So, according to you (and your technical training is?) the United States and the world’s top climatologists, oceanographers and glaciologists are all “liars”? Your beloved NASA is lying about global climate change too? But calling you a climate change denier (and for some reason you’re equating that to holocaust deniers, which makes no sense and has nothing to do with climate change), is “despicable”? But it’s okay to call people who have years of professional training and decades of first hand experience, conducted cutting edge and state of the art experiments “liars” is ok because you’ve read hundreds of scientific papers. Are you sure you understood them? Because my readings of hundreds of scientific papers, afters years of professional training and decades of first hand experience says your “conclusions” are irrelevant. After all, YOU readily admit at the top of your very thin bio that YOU “simply didn’t have the math skills necessary to make it as a NASA astronaut.” But you have the math skills to understand the hundreds of scientific papers you read? Instead, you got a “a master’s degree, studying early America colonial history”. Well, excuse me Mr. Zimmerman, in that case you most be a foremost expert in climatology, and you must be named Science Advisor to the President post haste. And tell us more about solar activity because you have a PhD in Astrophysics, right? You’re an expert in stellar astrophysics, right? Nope.

    • I have interviewed hundreds of scientists and have also found that the best scientists in the climate field are decidedly uncertain about what is going on with the climate. I also never claimed I know what is going on. I don’t. What I find wrong is anyone who claims they are certain about the science, that “the science is settled.” It is not.

      Science is never settled. Science demands that we allow everyone to question every conclusion, at all times. Otherwise, we lose the chance to learn something.

      I suggest you read the two links I gave to Jim. It will give you a better idea of where I stand. Trust me, I do not consider myself the foremost expert in this subject, in the slightest.

  • Howard Huges

    I ssuggest you read:

    Levermann A, et al., (2013) The multimillennial sea-level commitment of global warming.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110(34):13745–13750

    Solomon S, Plattner G, Knutti R, Friedlingstein P (2009) Irreversible climate change due to
    carbon dioxide emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106(6):1704–1709.

    The National Academy of Science are and these experts are “liars”?

    That paper is about one winter. Weather, Seasons, natural oscillations are all real. Global climate is not one winter or one summer It’s not even 5-10 winters or summers.

    I strongly encourage you to read these papers talking about global climate change in the context befitting it’s complexity, over hundreds to thousands of years.

  • Howard Hughes

    Just because there are uncertainties about certain details and short-term timescales, doesn’t mean there isn’t broad consensus about the overall long-term trends.

    Barnosky AD, et al. (2012) Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere. Nature

    See, you are perpetuating this language of “hoax” nonsense. The National Academy of Science, NASA and NOAA don’t take part in hoaxes or fudge data! That is absurd. This is not Dallas Nov 22nd 1963. This is not a conspiracy.

    “Political reasons to create the illusion of warming”? The long-term hundreds to thousands of years of temperature data, CO2 data and sea-level rise data is not in the least reliant on satellites, the evidence is indisputable in the ice, the atmosphere, and in the geological record. Five years of satellite data means nothing!

    George HW Bush signed the Kyoto Protocol, Clinton did nothing on climate. This is not about politics and it has NOTHING to do with solar cycles over the LONG TERM.

    You’re exactly right you don’t know what’s going on.

    The overarching movement science is never over. But scientific questions get settled all the time.
    “Science [DOES NOT] demands that we allow everyone to question every conclusion, at all times.” That’s why it’s called peer-review. A house wife living in Sheboygan has the right to question anything she wants, thats called democracy, not science.

    • We will have to respectively agree to disagree. However, the global warming advocates in the science community will have to explain, which they as yet cannot, why every single one of their climate models, which had predicted that the global climate temperature would continue to rise in lockstep with the increase in carbon dioxide, have all failed to predict the pause in temperature increase that has taken place over the past 18 or so years, even as CO2 continues to increase. See this link, written by one of the world’s top climate scientists.

      Look in particular at the graph there. It doesn’t disprove the theory of human caused global warming. It does however illustrate how very uncertain the science is.

      • Howard Hughes

        First of all, calculating the global average temperature of the entire planet is extremely difficult. You can’t use a single thermometer! ;~) Second, temperature does not and will not increase evenly everywhere on Earth. More heat goes to the poles and their are positive feedback loops, lees reflective ice, more dark absorbent ocean water and accelerates. However, as I mentioned previously there are natural short-term oscillations and it has been demonstrated that a great deal of that missing atmospheric heat went into the oceans. Finally, I strongly encourage you to take another look at that graph, we are talking about tenths of degrees difference in the overall temperature of the entire planet! Over 18 years, there are natural ups and downs, but the long-term trend is clearly up up and away!!!

  • Howard Hughes

    Nevertheless, I share your great enthusiasm for space and space science, and you’re efforts to expand our imaginations and dream about what’s out there is as critical as ever. Kennedy lifted this country and lifted the planet by choosing to go to the moon! Best of luck in your continued investigation of climate change
    and your space-related pursuits. Sincerely, Mr. Hughes ;~)

  • David Schwartz

    Hello Mr. Zimmerman,

    I enjoy listening to your interview on the John Batchelor Show and your various insights on topics ranging from space launches to satellite to asteroids. It is on the latter-most topic I send you this comment.

    I recently attended a conference during which the founder of the site Asterank discussed how he created the site by pulling data from various sources (typically raw txt file data), using an open-source visualization layer, and creating a nifty tool for tracking the potential mineral mining value of an asteroid (and cost to get there).


    Just thought I’d share.



  • One undeniable fact is that most of the climate predictions and so called “science” is based on atmospheric models that can accurately predict weather for 1 or 2 weeks at best, and often fail in their predictions for even the next day. So when scientists start talking about “deniers”, it makes me sad to see that such a perspective is so strong in one part of the scientific community.

    When politicians fund scientific endeavor, the agenda of the politicians will dominate. So, as long as there is some political opinion to support, some “scientists” will spend a lot of time, effort, and tax payer money to generate stuff to support it.

    Just look at the concentration of scientific minds that existed in Germany in the early 20th century. Then look at the accomplishments that happened in physics, chemistry, and other branches. Most of those accomplishments were done by those who went against the commonly accepted ideas; where would we be with Einstein, for example.

    Human caused global warming is based on a theory that does not always refer to nature, but often refers to complex mathematical models that (despite their complexity) are NOT able to even adequately account for water vapor in the atmosphere – the most abundant green house gas. We see in the ice sheets at the poles a history over many thousands of years that describes climate changes that have nothing to do with carbon emissions from human beings.

    I am so tired of watching politics ruin everything it touches. Science is not immune from their reach, unfortunately.

  • Sorry, I meant to say: where would we be WITHOUT Einstein.

  • Mike Nelson


    Listened to you on the JBS tonight and hate to dash your hopes, but being in the FLASH memory business I am pessimistic wrt Oppy’s future prospects. I’m not sure of the specific technology node for Oppy’s memory, but the error behavior as described is an ominous sign. The reason is that FLASH memory degrades over time (i.e it physically wears out as you use it), so you can only write to it a finite number of times before the cells become unstable. Radiation doesn’t help, but those effects are quite localized and fairly easy to map out. Reaching the endurance limit is a global phenomena as the controller tries hard to evenly spread out the write cycles across the drive (called wear leveling). A good rule of thumb is that you will see 10% of lifecycle media errors over the first 90% of life, and then the remaining 90% of errors in the last 10% of life. Therefore I expect that things will gradually get worse in the months ahead, and that Oppy probably has about 1 year of ever-degrading FLASH memory operation left given that it is 11 years old.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. If you want to understand the issue better Google on “FLASH memory endurance” and you should find lots of hits.

    Keep up the good work. I listen to JBS all the time and in particular for your segments, and enjoy BtB too.


    • Interesting, and not surprising. The one saving grace from the recent memory problem is that during the last three months they figured out how to operate Opportunity with no flash memory at all, essentially working only with RAM that was lost each night when they had to shut down. From this experience they now can argue that they could continue to use the rover effectively, even if the flash memory should eventually go bad.

  • Don Bancroft

    I remember a quote from someone that went something like “Science is truth distilled through doubt”.
    I can’t find it at the moment, but there’s this-
    “…It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.”
    “Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.” – Richard Feynman

    command+f and type “doubt” for more at –

  • Jeffrey L. Colton

    I listen to any space talk I can find and can’t find an answer to my question. . .which is. . . .
    Why are all our efforts fixated on Mars. We went to the moon. I would seem that a colony there would be a good stepping stone to Mars eventually yet the moon is ignored like an unwanted child. It’s omission from the dialog is incredible. What’s going on? ? ? Why the complete disregard for the moon.
    I have heard some bizarre explanations. Your thoughts? ? ?

    • The fixation on Mars is based on ignorance and politics (which seem to go together too often unfortunately). I have written and spoken about this repeatedly in my appearances on the radio and on my webpage.

      1. The moon is a great place to learn how to build a base on another planet. It is close by, and easy to get to and from.

      2. A space station is a great place to learn how to build an interplanetary spaceship. My book, Leaving Earth, was written entirely to illustrate this point.

      3. Do both, and then you will have the technology, skills, and abilities to go to Mars. Try to go to Mars before you have done both and you will almost certainly fail, or if you succeed it will be a shallow and very temporary success.

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