Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

August 12, 2016 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Embedded below the fold. Commercial space and planetary science, as usual, were the topics, with a focus on Curiosity’s upcoming journey (which shall get an update by tomorrow at the latest).

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.


  • Localfluff

    The Russians don’t need to sell the third seat to the ISS to a “tourist”. Foreign space agencies are likely interested buyers too. They have trained astronauts waiting. The US pays $70 million per seat. Space tourists have paid $20 to $40 million, according to Wiki.

  • PeterF

    Localfluff said;
    “Foreign space agencies are likely interested buyers too. They have trained astronauts waiting.”

    I immediately thought of the Chinese. But the Iranians or the North Koreans might be interested. Just so long as they don’t want to skip the training on how to land. (I know what the word for “divine wind” is in Japanese, what is it in Farsi?)

  • Localfluff

    Anyway, the Russians won’t leave the third Soyuz seat empty to make it more comfortable for the remaining two, or to save kerosene, they’ve got plenty of that.

    – – – – –
    Curiosity will now travel between the “buttes” on Mars.
    Since I don’t understand much English, I look such words up. “Butte” comes from the, thanks to Hollywood, internationally more familiar meaning of “butt”. Which I suppose is not what is meant here. But(!) a dictionary gives it a funny etymology:
    “Thick end”. “Remainder of a smoked cigarette”. “Liquor barrel”. “Target of a joke”. “Hit with the head”.
    And of course, confusing English is the fault of Scandinavian influence:

    (They’ve really found water and life on Mars this time!)

    You see, this is a problem for international cooperation in space.

    Emily Lakdawalla has her 4 first minutes about these, ehum, topological features, on the Planetary Radio today:

  • Wayne


    Get me a tourist Visa to your homeland, and I’ll come face slap you personally, academically of course!
    [1805, American English, from French butte, from Old French but “mound, knoll.”]
    “Bogart Gets Rough”

    Totally tangential–
    Look up the phrase, “A boodle of queer.”

    (Means– counterfeit money. Watch the movie “Mister 880.”)
    And for Trump– The phrase is “as queer as a three dollar bill.” (but I don’t know if we are allowed to say that any more…)

  • Localfluff

    No, Wayne. Butte comes from Old Swedish “but” = “flatfish”. Probably Danish Vikings who brought this into English when they ruled England, who then in turn colonized America.

    Two dollar bills are for real. “He” habitually adds one or two or more to every number he mentions, so from January 21th all three and four dollar bills will have to be accepted as payment by executive order. “He” will solve the US debt crises, and I think it will work better (for the US) than any other option, by replacing USD with TRD (exchange only allowed for selected friends). Beautiful orange dollar bills with a pretty smiling face on them, and the printed text:
    “It’s a rigged system. But that’s okay, because now I’m the one who’s rigging it!”
    And on the coins:
    – “Heads, Trump wins.”
    And on the other side:
    – “Tails, Trump wins again!”

  • Alex

    Localfluff: Danish Vikings never ruled England in total, but conquered some areas at the North-west coast of British isle and build there even quite a number of villages/settlements in time period around 700-1000 b.c..

  • Localfluff

    Well, they ruled your colonizers little island enough to teach you new words like “law” and “king”.
    And “dead reckoning” which is a funny rime of the Danish term for the same thing. (You measure your speed by throwing an English slave off board and see how fast it tries to swim relative to the ship). Not really applicable for space travel, though. Even Shakespeare had to reference Denmark in Hamlet 600 years later. At the same time as the astrologer Johannis Kepler founded astrophysics, based on the data observed by the Dane Tycho Brahe. A generation later Isaac Newton, the greatest Englishman of all times, founded his work on that beginning.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


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


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *