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I am now running my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Behind the Black. For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. These companies practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.


Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


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You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage or shown in the menu above. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Curiosity climbing Mount Sharp

Curiosity as seen by MRO from orbit
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image, to the right and cropped to post here, was taken on April 18, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Released today by MRO’s science team, it shows the rover Curiosity sitting on top of the 20-foot high rock outcrop the scientists have dubbed Mt. Mercou. The 16,400 foot high Mt. Sharp is to the south, with the rim of Gale Crater about 30 miles to the north.

I have annotated the image to show the rover’s route both before and after the moment when this picture was taken. As the caption at the link notes, the rover is currently working its way up Mt. Mercou, a route that was not initially in their plans, as shown by the wider MRO view below.

Wider view from MRO

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced, is the same as the image above, only it shows a wider view. The white cross marks Curiosity’s position. I have also added the planned route up Mt. Sharp, indicated by the red dotted line. By heading up Mt. Mercou they are covering ground not planned. I suspect that they will retreat to smoother ground once they have gathered the data they want from the bedrock on this outcrop, though they might decide to cut directly south and west, gathering good data of this new geology that they would not see if they retreated downhill to smoother ground.

When Curiosity was at the above location in mid-April, it took several panoramas, first to the south at the steep and high foothills of Mount Sharp, now only a short distance away, and second to the north, across Gale Crater to its northern rim. I posted those panoramas in April, but I include them again below.

The view of Gale Crater from on top of Mont Mercou
Click for full image.

The view from the top of Mont Mercou
Click for higher resolution. For original images, go here and here.

The first panorama of Gale Crater also covers the terrain the rover previously traveled. As I noted in April, “I think the smallest mesas on the left of this image are the Murray Buttes which Curiosity was traveling through back in 2016, but am not certain.”

In the second panorama, look closely at the ground to the lower right. This rough type of surface is exactly what Curiosity is presently crossing on Mt. Mercou. As I noted in that April post, “Travel is going to be tricky from here on out.”

Conscious Choice cover

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.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 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.

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