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.

China on track for Mars launch in July?

Two stories today, one from Nature and the second from, pushed the idea that China’s Mars orbiter/lander/rover mission is still on schedule to meet the July launch window.

A close read of both stories however revealed very little information to support that idea.

The Nature article provided some details about how the project is working around travel restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 virus epidemic. For example, it told a story about how employees drove six scientific instruments by car to the assembly point rather than fly or take a train, thereby avoiding crowds.

What struck me however was that this supposedly occurred “several days ago,” and involved six science payloads that had not yet been installed on the spacecraft. To be installing such instrumentation at this date, only four months from launch, does not inspire confidence. It leaves them almost no time for thermal and vibration testing of the spacecraft.

The article also provided little information about the status of the entire project.

The article was similar. Lots of information about how China’s space program is dealing with the epidemic, but little concrete information about the mission itself, noting “the lack of official comment on the mission.” Even more puzzling was the statement in this article that the rover “underwent its space environment testing in late January.”

I wonder how that is possible if those six instruments above had not yet been installed. Maybe the instruments were for the lander or orbiter, but if so that means the entire package is not yet assembled and has not been thoroughly tested as a unit. Very worrisome.

Posting today has been light because I was up most of the night dealing with a family health issue, meaning that I ended up sleeping for several hours during the day. All is well, nothing serious (it is NOT coronavirus), but it has left my brain and schedule very confused. Will likely take a good night’s sleep to get back to normal.

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  • Gary M.

    Take good care of yourself Robert. It sounds like you have people in your life that need you healthy and well rested.

  • Edward

    You are tired. The six instruments are for the lander, but it was the rover that was tested in January.

    They probably need not perform a thermal vacuum test with all three together, but they may want to do a shake test with them assembled in launch configuration. Fortunately, shake tests do not take as long as thermal vacuum tests.

  • Edward. I am tired, but I thought I was clear enough. No matter.

    Naps in the afternoon never do me much good. I couldn’t stay awake, but when I get up after a mid-day nap I always feel like a truck hit me.

  • Chris

    Sleep is good food!

  • Ray Van Dune

    How many more years before the idea of launching a probe/lander to Mars will sound ridiculous? Pay the $/kg freight to Spacex, and they will take it there and either leave it in orbit, or roll it down the ramp where you want to start your expedition. Simple.

  • Lee S

    I hope you and your family are OK Bob….even if we don’t see eye to eye very often, sleep deprivation is an absolute nightmare! (Metorphoricaly speaking!)
    Given the Chinese space agencies method of VERY slow and steady I would be very shocked if they had not rigourously tested everything, and were not 100% confident of their methodology. They know the whole world is watching, and their space activities are a matter of huge national pride. If they mess up, the consequences for the mission managers will be worse than they would be here in the west!

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