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.

The porksters arrive!

A draft bill in Congress is proposing the Pentagon develop an engine for the Atlas 5 engine to replace the Russian engine now used.

The legislation passed by a House subcommittee Wednesday calls for up the U.S. military to spend up to $220 million next year to kick off full-scale development of the engine, which could be ready for flights no later than 2019. The bill states the Defense Department “should develop a next-generation liquid rocket engine that is made in the United States, meets the requirements of the national security space community, is developed by not later than 2019, is developed using full and open competition, and is available for purchase by all space launch providers of the United States.”

There is no reason for this funding gift to the aerospace industry. For one thing, there are two rockets that already exist that use all U.S. parts, the Delta family of rockets and the Falcon 9. For another, if Congress stays out, the private sector will take care of this need and do it for a lot less and far quicker, while costing the taxpayers relatively little. By making this a government project we guarantee it will be expensive and take forever, thus keeping the pork flowing to Congressional districts without solving the problem.

And speaking of keeping pork flowing to Congressional districts, pork king Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) today ripped into NASA for trying to trim a little from the budget of SLS (which sends a lot of cash to Alabama). He also condemned NASA’s manned commercial effort.

Shelby’s statements are absurd and illustrate a level of incompetence that is staggering. SLS as designed will not be able to ferry crews to ISS. It won’t fly with humans until 2021 and even then not more than once every four years. Its yearly budget equals what NASA is spending on the entire manned commercial space program, from start to finish, and finally, the cuts to SLS that NASA is proposing are relatively tiny and if used for manned commercial space instead will likely help guarantee that we get a manned capability to ISS by 2017 at the latest.

The only reason Shelby is pushing SLS is that if ferries money to his state instead of ferrying humans into space. It is his type of selfish and foolish reasoning in Congress that put us in this situation in the first place. It is time we dumped such reasoning, for good.


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  • Cotour

    “expensive and take forever”

    Yes, that’s 180 degrees from what needs to be done to actually get something done so the government does the exact opposite.

    Now we all understand how the government works. Congressmen and Senators love this business model. Unless it is just something to poke Putin in the eye with. That’s the desperate level that this administration has brought itself down to. With a strong president that is properly respected (read feared) in the world Russia and China behave themselves. Without “respect” you have them testing the outer parameters of what America will allow them to get away with. Conclusion? Do what ever you want, this president and this administration is an international cream puff that becomes very dangerous for country’s that call us their friend and who depend on our promises to defend them.

    There is nothing more dangerous than a weak man fooling himself that he is not what he is.

  • Lcon

    Of course the Fact that Shelby is represent’s Marshall Space Center and Redstone where any new engine would be developed has nothing to do with it… Just like Rep Mike Rodgers Questioning Space X’s safety record ( see Aviation Week Space) has nothing to do with his district being just south of the same and ULA’s offices in Decatur is just coinidence

  • Lcon

    Of course the Fact that Alabama and Shelby’s area includes And in deed he was speaking in Huntsville Home of Both Redstone and the Marshall Space centers Both home to the Government Run Rocket programs.
    Same as Mike Rodgers Recent questioning of SpaceX in Aviation Week, the Fact that ULA happens to have 760 people employed in Decatur,Al people who may live in his district which is just south of that city is just Coincidence….. .

  • wodun

    SpaceX should open some facilities in Alabama for a few years.

  • Kelly Starks

    Not that it wouldn’t be a good idea to develop a US equivalent rocket engine. But your sure not going to be able to do it for $220 M – most especially if its done under normal gov procurement rules. It was expected to take a billion just to set up and certify factory to make RD-180s. (Though there was some thought that upgrading to modern manufacturing equip etc could cut that a lot.

  • Competential

    Russia has annonced to abandon the Russian/Ukranian Zenit rocket which I think is the only rocket next to Atlas V which uses the same RD-180 engine. The Krim crises seems to suddenly have killed that engine! The upgraded RD-191 will be used in Russian Angora rockets, with first test launch this year (<4t to LEO version)

  • Tony

    Is Robert Zimmerman in hiding …. his website has NO contact info!

  • Tony,

    There is contact info on the webpage. Go to the “About” link and look at the bottom of the essay. Or you could just post your thoughts here and I will read them, and possibly respond.

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