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.

Biden administration commits to operating ISS through 2030

The Biden administration yesterday announced that it has committed NASA to operating the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, a six year extension to the previous end date of 2024.

Today’s abrupt announcement on a federal holiday comes one day after Biden and Putin had a “serious and substantive” telephone conversation about the situation in Ukraine where Russian troops are massed at the border. Biden has said that if Russia invades Ukraine the United States and its allies will respond with more economic sanctions. A Russian official told reporters later that Putin warned Biden that any such sanctions “could result in a ‘complete rupture’ of relations” between the two countries, according to the New York Times.

…Asked why the ISS extension was announced today and if it is related to the Biden-Putin call, a NASA spokesperson told only that it has “been in the works for months.”

A White House commitment to 2030 falls short of setting the date in law, but demonstrates U.S. intentions at least as long as Biden is President. Whether the other partners, especially Russia, agree will be interesting to watch. ESA’s Director General, Josef Aschbacher, welcomed the news, but it will be the 11 ESA members who participate in the program who make the decision.

The article gives a good overview of the political issues, and notes accurately that it will be very difficult to operate the station if Russia and the U.S. part ways and Russia leaves the partnership.

What the article did not mention is the fragile state of some of Russia’s modules. Both Roscosmos and NASA know that the Zvezda module, the second oldest on ISS, is showing very worrisome signs of aging, including many stress fractures that have caused small airleaks. The Russians themselves have admitted that the module is failing, and have added that because of this fact the Putin government has begun work on a new and independent Russian station.

It is unclear if ISS could function if Zvezda became unusable. At a minimum its capabilities will be reduced. At worst it might not be safe to occupy.

The Biden administration and NASA can extend ISS on paper as much as they want, but reality suggests that it will be a dangerous challenge to keep the station running until 2030. The real solution is to get as many private commercial American stations launched in the next few years, so that when Zvezda fails, there will be viable options to ISS.


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  • Jeff Wright

    Sad times.

  • M

    In the 2nd from last paragraph I think you may have meant “air leaks” rather than “airlocks”

  • M: Yup. Now fixed. Thank you.

  • David M. Cook

    That pervert Bill Clinton was always willing to assist the Russians in any way possible, and by bringing them into the project gave us these poorly-made modules which are critical to the station! If we had done the ISS by ourselves we wouldn‘t have this problem.

  • pzatchok

    But But But Russian would not love us like they do now!!!!

  • Richard M

    Re: Bill Clinton. No fan of Slick Willie am I, but I have some sympathy for his dilemma in ’93. The prospects for Space Station Freedom getting funded were very shaky; and even shakier was Boris Yeltsin’s grip on power. Worries of Russian engineers going off for a big paycheck in Pyongyang, Baghdad, or Tehran were not unfounded. Combining space station projects with Moscow carried very real risks, but it was not unreasonable to think it was a good way to kill two birds with one stone. I think there’s a good case to be made that congress would have rejected the station, save possibly in the most cut down form, without Russian involvement giving it geopolitical cover. As it was, it only passed by a single vote in the House, 216 to 215.

    Today, the geopolitical world is far different. If we had to do it today, we would not do it like this. But for now, we’re kind of stuck with them, until we can get commercial station(s) to orbit. And just hope it stays alive until then.

  • Richard M

    “It is unclear if ISS could function if Zvezda became unusable.”

    From what I understand, a lot of Zvezda’s functions are not duplicated on the US Orbital Segment now. Aside from that, a Cygnus could, as a stopgap, provide station-keeping. As for the Russian side, they could still use Nauka and keep access to the US side so long as Zvezda’s docking module was operable, even if the module itself had to be sealed off.

    A slightly longer term patch that has been mooted would be to have Northrop knock up another HALO/PPE module like the one they are building for Gateway, only with a docking adaptor. That would be a relatively fast and cheap alternative if Zvezda gives up the ghost in the coming year.

    Hopefully, though, Zvezda will soldier on until the first Axiom module is attached in 2024. As I undersand it, it can fully function as a servce module. If it had to do so, the US segment would then become the “aft” end of the ISS.

  • Richard M

    Horrible typo on my last: That should read “a lot of Zvezda’s functions are [scratch “not”] duplicated on the US Orbital Segment now.”

  • BSinSC

    Interesting that the Russians are planning THEIR OWN space station! Given that stance, why shouldn’t the USA work with our PRIVATE partners and have a fully functional “PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP Space Station” in operation no later than January 20, 2028?? I’m sure the existing space station has adequate section locks that can be utilized to disconnect from any defective segments and then reconnect with new, more advanced modules! I would expect new, more advanced modules produced by PRIVATE companies to be more efficient and less costly. It might be a good idea for NASA to return to it’s intended purpose and leave the “make the muslims feel good” crap to some PRIVATE liber organization!

  • David M. Cook

    Check out the Voyager space platform: I think the first one should be named after Arthur C. Clark.

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