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.

Arecibo Observatory to be shut down permanently

The arriving dark age: Due to the extent of its recent cable failures and the risks they pose to works, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has decided to shuttered and dismantle it permanently.

Ralph Gaume, director of NSF’s astronomy division, said at the briefing the agency wants to preserve other instruments at the site, as well as the visitor and outreach center. But they are under threat if the telescope structure collapses. That would bring the 900-ton instrument platform, suspended 137 meters above the 305-meter wide dish, crashing down. Flailing cables could damage other buildings on the site, as could the three support towers if they fell, too. “There is a serious risk of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse,” Gaume said. “A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has.”

Over the next few weeks, engineering firms will develop a plan for a controlled dismantling. It may involve releasing the platform from its cables explosively and letting it fall.

The radio telescope was built in the early 1960s, and for many years was the world’s largest single dish radio telescope. It has struggled however in recent years with both financial and infrastructure problems, the latter initially caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.


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  • Joe

    Due to the damage, they should decommission it and bring it down. Once the wreckage is cleared, they should start construction on Arecibo II, a modern version of the same telescope. If we don’t do this, then we will cede yet another science component to China.

  • Col Beausabre

    1. “An auxiliary cable came loose from a socket on one of the towers in August, creating a 100-foot gash in the dish. Engineers were assessing and working on a plan to repair the damage when another main cable on the tower broke on November 6.

    When it broke, the cable crashed into the reflector dish below, causing additional damage.

    After the break on November 6, engineers inspected the rest of the cables and discovered new breaks as well as slippage from some of the sockets on the towers. Multiple engineering companies reviewed the damage. They determined that the telescope could collapse because it is “in danger of catastrophic failure” and the cables are weaker than expected.

    Even if engineers could safely fix all the damage and add cables to support the telescope, it would likely have stability issues in the future.

    The latest review revealed that damage to the telescope could not be stabilized without risking staff and the construction team. This led to the NSF making the decision to decommission the telescope after 57 years.”

    2. Picture of damage


    34 No, don’t rebuild it. Replace it with a new one, either in orbit or (better I think) on the far side of the moon (great reason for a moon colony). Use a data link to stream data to an Earth Station

  • David

    I know when the Chinese radio telescope was finished a year or so ago, they had no native personnel capable of managing the installation, were attempting to hire sufficiently experienced people offshore, and were having trouble doing so. But I never heard any follow up on the matter, so I have to assume they got it operational with at least sufficiently competent, if not excellent, staffing. I wonder if now, with Arecibo offline, they’ll get more interest.

  • Jeff Wright

    Put a replacement in Meteor Crater

  • wayne

    Who actually owns the land?

  • LocalFluff

    @Jeff Wright
    That could maybe work! Meteor crater has a diameter-to-depth ratio of 7, Arecibo has 6, so it should have a useful field of view (isn’t it fantastic that space itself digs out telescope dishes for us!) And with 4 times the diameter (aperture) compared with Arecibo as bonus.

    But I think it might need some caterpillaring to get the right shape before the concrete is poured. So crater geologists might not like that. It doesn’t hurt to ask them, not more than an immediate face slap hurts anyway.

  • LocalFluff

    “- Was that an approving high five that I missed?”

  • The problem with using Meteor Crater as a radio telescope is its location. It is too close to a major city. I do not think you have sufficient radio quiet to make useful observations. Arecibo was located in the back country of Puerto Rico, and thus was in a quiet zone that since its construction has been maintained.

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