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.

ExoMars2020 passes new parachute tests

Revisions to Europe’s ExoMars2020 parachutes have successfully passed tests at JPL in California.

Working with Nasa, ESA made modifications to the way the parachutes are released from the bag, which avoids creating so much friction. Using a special rig at JPL, the parachutes have now been tested up to their expected extraction speed of just over 200km/h with no sign of damage. Further confirmatory tests will now take place.

Time remains very short however. The launch window for ExoMars2020 is this coming summer.

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  • Richard M

    Hope they can make it.

    I’d hate to see the Rosalind Franklin reduced to a pile of rubbish on the Martian landscape, given its amazing capabilities.

    Whereas I would love to see both it and Mars 2020 landing around the same time, and both sending back images and data every day.

  • Lee S

    I would like …. No…. Love, to see a successful landing of this massively capable, and to be honest, more adventurous than anything NASA has launched since the Viking missions regarding the search for life on Mars, to achieve a successful landing and mission…. But I am deeply skeptical…
    The ESA couldn’t get the parachutes right after almost 20 years (perhaps 15 years… But this mission has been in “development” for decades…) , We had to come and get some tips off NASA before passing the test… And this is just a couple of months before packing up the thing ready for launch.
    I’ve mentioned this before here, but I remember watching a TV program when Steve Squires went to have a look…. His advice was ” give it 6 wheel turning…. If we hadn’t had that on my 2 rovers, they would both be dead now..”… This was early in the development…. And entirely ignored.
    I wish this mission the very best of luck… I will watch the few minuets of terror live with a bottle of bubbly, as I do for every Mars mission… And pop the cork if it lands safely…. But given the rushing for this launch window, and the success rate for European landing on Mars…. I will also have a bottle of scotch ready for when contact gets lost and doesn’t resume….
    I wish I could be optimistic…. But I just can’t be … Too late in development, too fast in pretended everything is ready…
    I won’t eat my hat, but I will eat some form of horrible Swedish fish if this manages to land successfully!

  • Richard M

    “…more adventurous than anything NASA has launched since the Viking missions”

    I love the Rosalind Franklin and the scientific promise it brings, but…surely this is slightly excessive praise? It’s hard to say it’s more advernturous than Curiosity, but perhaps you have a different definition of the word than I do.

  • Lee S

    Sorry Richard… But you missed the “regarding the search for life on Mars ” bit of what I said…. The only mission to actively search for “life” on the red planet since was the bargain basement ESA Beagle 2, which came so close to working, but failed to deploy it’s solar panels.
    NASA has consistently refused to do a real search for extinct or extant life since the ambiguity of the Viking results.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Lee S,

    You are, lamentably, spot on anent NASA’s longstanding aversion to actively seeking martian life. And yet NASA still periodically trumpets various half-baked “indications” of its possible presence on Mars. It’s as though the agency fears it will be shut down if it definitively fails to find extraterrestrial life in this “most likely” place.

    As to a suitable sackcloth-and-ashes meal in the event of ExoMars’s possible failure, it’s too bad you don’t live one country over – you could have lutefisk.

  • Richard M

    Hello Lee,

    I think Curiosity/MSL deserves more credit on this front. Three of its eight key science objectives are, after all: Determine the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds; Investigate the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur); and Identify features that may represent the effects of biological processes (biosignatures and biomolecules).

    Of course, Mars 2020 is going to be even more astrobiology focused (not least in its choice of landing site).

    I’ll be honest: I do not think there is, or ever was, life on Mars of any sort. It’s worth looking anyway, to be sure, though I start to wonder about how much the search for life or life precursors is crowding out other Martian science.

  • Diane Wilson

    What NASA learned from Viking was that the question of life on Mars was more complicated than they knew at the time, and to be more circumspect about what they looked for, what they might find, and what those findings might mean. The “follow the water” strategy in recent decades has been both a search of possible sites for human use as well as for possible origins of life.

    I could consider the possibility of simple single-celled life during Mars’ warmer and wetter past, probably more like prokaryotes (no nucleus) than eukaryotes. I’m much less sanguine about anything still surviving, or any reliable and conclusive evidence.

  • Col Beausabre

    And what did the ESA pay NASA for the use of taxpayer funded facilities?

  • David M. Cook

    Col B, the payment was the ESA folks promised not to laugh when the SLS fails.

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