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.

April 16, 2021 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Embedded below the fold, in three parts. All three segments tonight are almost entirely about commercial space, with the third segment a special one that John and I taped today following today’s decision by NASA to give SpaceX the lunar landing contract.


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  • Joe

    Jim Cantrell is back again. I hope they take a very different approach with this rocket company. Hopefully not a phantom.

  • Icepilot

    Bob, your statement, “it’s going to make the … space station orbit pretty crowded …”, made me blink.

    From Douglas Adams, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…”

  • Icepilot: I was being metaphoric. I very well know that there is plenty of space in space for a lot of space stations.

  • wayne

    Khan Noonien Singh
    “Commentary on the conditions in Space”

  • Edward

    John Batchelor asked, “why don’t we see a lot of cool crashes from Bezos’s company the way we do from Musk’s?”

    Robert’s answer is good. There may have been a lot of problems that we didn’t see in the early years.

    The main reason that New Shepard no longer has spectacular crashes is that it is in verification phase of development, a phase in which spectacular failures are very bad, and Starship is still in basic technology proof of concept phase, when failure is to be expected. The methods and technologies for New Shepard are fairly well known but for Starship they are still being explored. They are in very different phases of development. New Shepard should be close to its final design, but Starship is still finding out how to do completely new maneuvers and techniques with new concepts, technologies, and methods. New Shepard should look routine, Starship should not, yet.

    Super Heavy is designed to operate similarly to the Falcons, so it should not have spectacular failures (unless they do a test to failure pressure on their first test article). That technology is reasonably well known.

    Another difference, similar to Robert’s answer, is that when New Shepard had a spectacular failure on its first booster landing, Blue Origin was not forthcoming of the video of the crash. SpaceX does not have large areas of real estate to keep the general public away from its tests, so much of what SpaceX does ends up being seen by the public. Operations at the Boca Chica site are so popular that there are even people making videos of the manufacturing process and of moving hardware from one location to another. SpaceX’s processes (assembly, integration, test, as well as the construction and operation of ground support equipment and assembly buildings) are the most watched that I have ever known.

    Although SpaceX is very willing to suffer spectacular failures in order to advance their technologies, they do not go out of their way to have them. SpaceX sounded very glad that their first high altitude flight succeeded in its first pitch-over at altitude. They are skipping three test articles in order to go straight to the next major iteration of their design, which suggests to me that they were expecting some failures learning how to perform that first pitch-over maneuver. It is because they learned so much so fast that has enabled them to skip three test articles.

    New Shepard is far enough along that they are verifying that their hardware, software, and procedures really do what they want them to do. They are likely not making major changes between test flights but are making iterative changes to their final methods.

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