Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


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

Coming and going

There are really only two important stories today concerning space exploration. The story that is getting the most coverage is the big news that the space shuttle Discovery is making its last flight, flying over Washington, DC, as it is delivered to the Smithsonian for permanent display.

Of these stories, only Irene Klotz of Discovery News seems to really get it. This is not an event to celebrate or get excited about. It is the end of an American achievement, brought to a close probably three to five years prematurely so that the United States now cannot even send its own astronauts to its own space station.

The other news, actually far more important, has gotten far less coverage, and includes three different stories all really about the same thing.

Commercial space is moving forward. It will not be a monolithic government operation, but made up of competing companies building different spaceships with different capabilities. The competition will force costs down, while encouraging creative innovation.

It is just a shame that the people we elected to office in the past decade didn’t have the simple common sense to extend the shuttle program just a few short years so that our country would have always had the ability to put humans into space.

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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • An opinion article on CNN, of all places, seems to get it too –

  • Kelly Starks

    The fact that you even see the three commercial stories as being significant relative to the ending on the shuttle program, and effectively US maned space capability boggles my mind. It’s like on 9-12 says well yeah we loft the towers – but on the plus side theirs opening a new Starbucks a couple blocks over. Switching the shuttle contracts to commercial would be a big plus. Vastly lower cost, and a real potential to fix them, improve them, and expand operations into new markets and activities. CST at best is just a taxi, the X-37C a much better taxi. Dragon at best isn’t a real contender, at worst is a major threat to the US retaining even shards of what it had.

  • Kelly Starks

    The US ends its space program and scraps out al it had – adn the space advocates all applaud.


  • Joe

    When you don’t do anything anymore you go to museums to reminisce about what you used to do


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 *