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On February 5, 2023 I will celebrate my 70th birthday. Yay! As I do every year during this birthday month, I run a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:

 

1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.

 

2. Donate through Gabpay, using my email address zimmerman @ nasw dot org.
 

3. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.
 

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China’s candidate landing site on Mars

One candidate landing site for China's first Mars lander/rover
Click for full image.

The image to the right, reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and provides a close-up of the relative smooth terrain found in the region on Mars that the Chinese have said is one of their prime landing sites for their 2020 Mars rover and lander. According to planetary scientist Alfred McEwen of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory in Arizona,

There was a presentation at the European planetary & science conference in Geneva last fall, and a Chinese scientist gave an update on their plans and showed this area with the lat-long coordinates. That’s what I’m going on.

McEwen also admits that “there might have been a change since then. I’m not in the loop.” No one outside China really is, as that government remains quite opaque on these matters. They will likely only reveal their final landing site choice as we get closer to launch.

Overview

This location, on the northern lowlands plains of Utopia Planitia, makes great sense however for a first attempt by anyone to soft land on Mars. In fact, in 1976 these plains were the same location that NASA chose for Viking 2, for the same reasons. (The Viking 2 landing site was to the northeast of the Chinese site, just beyond the right edge of the overview map) While there are plenty of craters and rough features, compared to most of Mars’s surface, Utopia could be considered as smooth as a bowling ball.

Even so, a look at the full image shows that there are numerous features nearby that would be a threat for any robotic lander. McEwen notes,

While smooth on large scales, HiRISE reveals small-scale roughness elements, including craters, boulders, and other features. Such hazards may be avoided by using “terminal hazard avoidance,” a technology China has demonstrated on the Moon.

First, it is very likely that the Chinese obtained that “terminal hazard avoidance” technology when they hacked into JPL’s computers from 2009 to 2018. Second, while their designs worked on landing Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 on the Moon, the challenge of landing precisely on Mars is greater, since it has a higher gravity and an atmosphere that can interfere with your descent. Finally, the simulated Martian test landing they did in November did not appear very convincing. It left me very unsure they are ready for this year’s mission.

Nonetheless, they say they are going, and if they succeed, along with the American Curiosity and Mars2020 rovers and the European Rosalind Franklin rover, by 2021 we will have four working rovers on Mars.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

Readers: the rules for commenting!

 

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