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My February birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black it now over. I sincerely and with deep gratitude thank all those who donated. Without your support I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. For those who did not contribute during the campaign, please consider adding your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Donate through Gabpay, using my email address zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

3. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

4. A Paypal Donation:

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5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
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Mars rover update: September 20, 2016

Opportunity comes first this time because it actually is more interesting.


For the overall context of Opportunity’s travels at Endeavour Crater, see this post, Opportunity’s future travels on Mars.

Having several choices on where to head, the Opportunity science team this week chose took what looks like the most daring route, heading almost due east towards the floor of Endeavour Crater. In fact, a review of their route and the images that the rover continues to take suggests that the panorama I created last week looked almost due east, not to the southeast as I had guessed. I have amended the most recent overhead traverse image, cropped and reduced below, to show what I now think that panorama was showing.

Sol 4493 traverse map

I will readily admit that I am unsure about this. The panorama appears to show four mounds, so that is what I am including. Because it is difficult to judge scale in these images (no scale bar is provided), I think I have been misjudging distances and mound sizes. The panorama shows objects that are farther away and look larger in the overhead traverse image.

This traverse map only shows us the rover’s travels through Sol 4493. The most recent images from Opportunity are dated Sol 4499. During that Martian week it appears the rover has crept closer to the brighter of the two mounds on the hillside before it. Below is a panorama I have created from images taken on Sol 4498, showing this.

Sol 4498 panorama

I have not indicated on the traverse map what this panorama is seeing because I am not sure which mound it is aimed at. I suspect it is second mound from the bottom, but until we have more information on the rover’s actual route since Sol 4493 it is hard to tell. What I can say without doubt is that the rover science team has now taken Opportunity much farther into Endeavour Crater than they had during their exploration of Marathon Valley. I now suspect that they want to explore the region up to the cliff face to the east, which would put them at the inside edge of the crater’s rim and give them ample opportunities (no pun intended) to compare it to the already studied outside edge.


For the overall context of Curiosity’s travels, see this post, Pinpointing Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater.

Curiosity's sample retrieval system

Since last week’s update Curiosity has remained positioned near the southernmost butte of the Murray Buttes area. They have been attempting to drill into a bright feature at the base of this butte, but have had drill issues. The first drill attempt “did not complete as expected.” The second drill attempt completed the drill hole, but then there “was a timing issue during sample manipulation.” (See this page for these updates.) None of these issues appear to be serious technical problems, merely the day-to-day challenges of drilling holes remotely with a robot on another planet millions of miles away. It would be nice however if the scientists making the reports could be clearer about what they mean.

The image on the right, cropped and reduced, provides a nice view of Curiosity’s sampling capture system, including its sieve used to sift out the right sized samples.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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