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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.

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5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
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c/o Robert Zimmerman
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Perseverance’s planned journey in Jezero Crater

Jezero Crater delta
Jezero Crater delta

If all goes right, on February 18, 2021 the rover Perseverance will gently settle down onto the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars. The image to the right is probably the most reproduced of this site, as it shows the spectacular delta that some scientists believe might be hardened mud that had once flowed like liquid or lava from the break in the rim to the west.

They hope to put Perseverance down to the southeast of that delta, as shown in the overview map below.

The local context of the Jezero Crater landing site

The large white rectangle shows the area covered by the image above. The black ellipse is Perseverance’s target landing zone. Ideally they hope to land close to that delta so that the rover will be able to reach it relatively quickly and begin to climb onto it. As their landing ellipse touches the delta’s edge, they also hope in trying to get close, they don’t end up too close and touch it. Such a landing will not be kind to the rover.

The rover’s goal will be first to study the floor of the crater, then the delta itself, working its way uphill until it reaches the break in the crater rim where the flow had entered. The science team will then have the rover enter that canyon, continue working its way uphill to the west until it climbs up out of that meandering drainage canyon onto the rough cratered terrain beyond.

It will take years to do this. I estimate the delta itself from head to foot to be between three to five miles long. In comparison, Curiosity is only now reaching the very base of Mount Sharp, after eight years traversing the floor of Gale Crater and the mountain’s foothills, having traveled a little more than fourteen miles. That’s less than two miles per year.

Perseverance will probably travel at about the same pace. Thus, assuming it lands in the very center of the landing zone, it will have to travel about eight miles to get to that rim, taking probably between five and six years, as the scientists will, like Curiosity, have it stop several times for months along the way to drill and analyze samples. Unlike Curiosity, Perseverance will also cache some of those samples for pickup by a later sample return mission.

Terrain uphill from Jezero Crater
Click for full image.

All told, do not expect Perseverance to climb out onto those upper highlands till around 2030. At that time the scientists have many options. To the right is just one, its location indicated by the small white box on the overview image.

The photo, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on February 8, 2020. It shows a strange zig-zag terraced ridge surrounded by hills, craters, and dune fields. The different colors in the color strip also suggest the presence of different materials in the ground.

Getting to this place however is optimism in the extreme. The distance to it from the break in the canyon is actually longer than the distance from the landing ellipse to the rim. It will likely take most of the decade of the 2030s to reach this spot, which means Perseverance will have persevered on Mars for almost twenty years if it gets this far.

Let us hope that this rover is well named. Let us also hope that before it dies human beings will have also arrived on Mars, and will be able to come by to check on it. And if Perseverance is then still operational, scientists on Earth will finally be able to use it to snap a picture of life on Mars, even if that life came from Earth.

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.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


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


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