The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.


The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.


Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.


To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Another law, another squelched dream

Surprise, surprise! Virgin Galactic space tourists could be grounded by federal regulations.

Virgin Galactic submitted an application to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation in late August 2013, says Attenborough. The office, which goes by the acronym AST, has six months to review the application, meaning an approval may come as early as February. Industry experts, however, say that may be an overly optimistic projection. “An application will inevitably be approved, but it definitely remains uncertain exactly when it will happen,” says Dirk Gibson, an associate professor of communication at the University of New Mexico and author of multiple books on space tourism. “This is extremely dangerous and unchartered territory. It’s space travel. AST has to be very prudent,” he says. “They don’t want to endanger the space-farers or the public, and they can’t let the industry get started and then have a Titanic-like scenario that puts an end to it all in the eyes of the public.” [emphasis mine]

As I predicted ten years ago, the 2004 revision to the Commercial Space Act puts bureaucrats in charge of the exploration of space by private citizens, a fact that can have no good consequences.

Imagine if in the 1840s and 1850s there had been a Federal Oregon Trail Administration, responsible for insuring the safety of settlers traveling by wagon train to the west coast. Nothing would have happened. Government supervision almost automatically means the avoidance of risk, something that is literally impossible when you are exploring a frontier. Instead of heading out into dangerous country with their families, Washington would have told the settlers that to wait until the federal government had made the west safe, something that was impossible for the federal government to do.

Well, space is that last frontier, and it cannot be explored if every new effort must be reviewed and approved by a paper-pusher in Washington, DC. The Commercial Space Act of 2004 expects the new, experimental, and untried spaceships of the future to meet the safety standards of the aviation industry after that industry had existed and been flying its airplanes for about seventy years. Such an expectation is impossible.

As the article suggests, the bureaucrats could regulate future activities on a case-by-case basis, rewriting their regulations as needed to avoid squelching the industry. While this might make some initial flights possible, it puts the industry entirely beholden to politicians would will use their power to suck money from these companies. It will also tend to unfairly favor the first companies out of the gate, as later companies will likely have more stringent rules to live by.

This nonchalant rewriting of the law also encourages contempt for the law, as we will have unelected regulators interpreting the law for their convenience, rather than elected legislators beholden to private citizens.

In the end, none of this is good. If the United States wants to realistically compete for the exploration of space, the Commercial Space Act either needs to be repealed, or drastically rewritten so that its power over the industry is significantly curtailed. Sadly, I do not see either of these actions happening in the near future.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.


  • I wonder what would happen if Virgin Galactic just ignored this? I mean, I understand that the power of the Government would be directed at them, but at some point, you’d think that a company with the popular support of Virgin would have some horsepower to just stare back and say “the Hell with you”, and the government would have to listen.

    The little guy gets ground down by regulations, this we know. Richard Branson isn’t a little guy.

  • Edward

    “… we will have unelected regulators interpreting the law for their convenience, rather than elected legislators beholden to private citizens”

    Regulation without representation.

    It’s like the never-popular Obamacare all over again (and even there, we have one elected official, supposedly beholden to private citizens, misinterpreting the law for his own convenience).

    Overregulation in order to make an inherently unsafe adventure risk-free is doomed to failure. Getting into space is harder and more dangerous than flying an airplane. Indeed, it took about five years and uncountable airplane flights for the first fatality in an airplane (Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge — ironically, a passenger of Orville Wright), but it took five years and only 16 space flights for the first spacecraft fatality (Soyuz 1 in 1967).

    Anyone who does not expect fatalities in the first years of commercial spaceflight is fooling himself, and to overregulate the activity is shortsighted. As with aircraft (and automobiles), it is from the accidents that we learn how to do it right. Will we be allowed to make the mistakes that will allow us to do it right?

    Bill Whittle worries about this topic, too. (7 minutes)

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *