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.

Arianespace offers to pick up SpaceX business

The competition heats up: In an effort to gain more business, Arianespace is offering to add an additional launch to its 2017 schedule for any satellite companies whose payload launch is being delayed by both SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launchpad explosion as well as a delay in Russian Proton launches due to its own technical issues.

In his remarks it seemed to me that the CEO of Arianespace was almost gloating.

In a Sept. 7 interview with France Info radio, Israel reiterated his confidence in what he portrayed as Arianespace’s more plodding, deliberative — and higher-cost — approach to launches when compared to SpaceX.

Arianespace does not want a reusable rocket for the moment, he said, because it’s not certain that reusability can reduce costs and maintain reliability. The Ariane 6 rocket, to operate starting in 2020, will not be reusable. The company also is wary of the Silicon Valley ethos that champions constant iteration, which he said has been a feature of Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX as well. “We think that the more a launch resembles the preceding launch, the better we are for our customers because we remain in the ‘explored domain’ where everything is understood,” Israel said.

In the short run he and Arianespace might benefit by this situation, but in the long run they will face a shrinking market share if they cannot lower the price of their rockets.


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  • I sincerely hope that business schools around the country are taking notes on the current commercial space landscape and designing curricula. We’re watching a nascent Golden Age of Space in real time.

  • Localfluff

    Yeah, I suggest that those who seriously follow this business keep some kind of diary with the thought in mind to write some kind of case study at least, after the fact. All industries have their weird quirks. Space is interesting because of its shift from government to private. Big geomilitary politics mixed with individual billionaires and crazy space cadets. It is often hard to tell who is a fraudster and who is honestly just stupid.

    Life has been on Earth for about four billion years. Now, since one hundredth of a millionth of that time, life is for the first time moving further than its home planet. We live in an extremely special time. And we’re not doing it Star Trek style, but we’re stumbling it very randomly and clumsily. Like life does everything. It works beyond our overestimated intelligence. It’s unstoppable, uncontrollable.

  • ” And we’re not doing it Star Trek style, . . ”


    This is how you get to ‘Star Trek’ style.

  • Edward

    There is a reason why the Silicon Valley has an ethos that champions constant iteration: it gets you ahead faster than those who do not iterate. The Silicon Valley is working very hard to keep up with Moore’s Law, despite the size of each transistor getting closer and closer to the size of an atom.

    I believe that this ethos is why commercial-space is going to rapidly surpass government-space. Like the title of one of Douglas Adams’s Zaphod Beeblebrox stories, government plays it safe. No one gets fired from government for playing it safe.
    A famous philosopher (me) once said there are three kinds of people in the world: 1) those who make something happen; 2) those who wish something would happen; and 3) those who wander in a daze wondering what happened. What kind are you? The British RAF motto: “Those who risk win.” Aim low and you will achieve it and be one of those wandering in a daze. Aim high and you have a chance to make something happen. “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Make positive change. Step forward rather than marking time or stepping back.

    Silicon Valley is world-famous precisely because it stopped doing what it always did and braved going beyond “the ‘explored domain’ where everything is understood.” Otherwise it would still call itself “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight” and be filled with orchards. Instead, we now enjoy many things that we take for granted, including GPS, a computer on every desktop, Earth observation and weather prediction, the internet, and international telecommunications. All of these are based upon technologies that were iterated into rapid improvement by Silicon Valley companies.

    From the article: “It is very difficult to do innovate with each launch, increase launch cadence and avoid failure all at the same time.

    It is no wonder that SpaceX is the company to beat, in the space launch industry. It is one of the few that is willing to take on the difficult. It may not be certain that reusability can reduce costs and maintain reliability, but if it does, then those who are willing to take that risk will win.

  • Craig Beasley

    While I understand the rough-and-tumble of real capitalism in cases like this, Arianespace’s “offer” smells a lot like kicking the competition while they’re down.

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