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In celebration of my birthday on February 5, 2023, I am running 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:


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Cones south of Starship’s prime landing sites on Mars

Cones near Phlegra Mountains
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on May 7, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissnace Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists have labeled as “Cones in Phlegra.”

Cones such as these are one of the prime geological mysteries of Mars’ northern lowland plains. Scientists do not know yet whether they are either mud or lava volcanoes, or even if they are sedimentary mesas that resisted subsequent erosion. In fact, it was hoped by some American scientists that the Chinese would send its Zhurong rover north towards a nearby cone to find out, but alas, the Chinese decided to head south instead.

Zhurong however was on the other side of Mars. The overview map below shows us where these cones are located.

Overview map

These cones, marked by the white cross, are about 300 miles southeast of the Phlegra Mountains, where orbital images have found extensive evidence of glaciers and near surface ice. These cones are also about 300 to 600 miles from the four prime landing sites proposed by scientists for SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft (indicated by the red dots and described here). The numbered white dots are other MRO images of potential Starship landing sites, while the black dots are MRO images covering a proposed Dragon landing zone.

At those Starship candidate landing sites orbital data has suggested there is ample water very close to the surface. These cones however are farther south, at about 30 degrees north latitude. South of this latitude there is little or no evidence of near surface ice. Whether these cones resulted from underground ice being pushed up like lava is thus an important geological question, both for scientists and future colonists, since finding water nearer to the equator, where the environment is slightly more benign, would be helpful for settlement.

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.


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