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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

February 19, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

John Batchelor has returned! Our first podcast in more than two weeks is embedded below the fold, in two parts.


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  • wayne

    Good deal!
    Batchelor is, a national-treasure!

    On a good night, I can get Batchelor ‘live’ on WLS-AM 890 Chicago, but otherwise just listen to the podcasts on the web.

    In somewhat related tangential news– Mark Levin was off for the past 2 weeks, cuz’ his mother died.

  • Richard M

    “Why do you take your business to a troubled Roscosmos?”

    The irony is – as I noted on the other thread – most of these NASA managers almost certainly voted for Hillary, and even keep Vladimir Putin dartboards in their living rooms.

    But in a way, it makes sense, I think. Think about it:

    If American astronauts are killed on a Soyuz, where does the blowback go? Media figures and congresscritters already Pavlovian about Putin will be even more enraged against the Russians. The *really* short-memoried will assume that Trump is behind it, giving another payback to his master in the Kremlin without regard for astronaut lives. Sure, there will be congressional hearings and Bridenstine and ISS managers will have to field a few uncomfortable questions. But it’s hardly likely that any NASA officials will get fired over it, or have their budget slashed.

    But if American astronauts are killed on a Dragon or even a Starliner, the knives will be out on Capitol Hill. NASA will have the responsibility. It approved and oversaw this new and unprecedented way of putting astronauts in space. If it’s SpaceX, the Alabama Mafia will be out for blood.

    Just another illustration at the perverse results that ideologized politics and bureaucratic culture can produce.

  • Richard M

    P.S. Speaking of the ULA-SpaceX brawl, Elon Musk and Tory Bruno actually tangled directly on Twitter yesterday over Elon’s claim that ULA is getting “massive subsidies.” Link:

    I actually admire Tory Bruno in a lot of ways. He’s very accessible, and he’s done a lot to make ULA more competitive despite answering to two stakeholders who see his company as little more than a revenue pipeline. But on this, I think he’s defending the indefensible – because he has to.

  • Edward

    The twitter page, that Richard M linked, contains a link to an essay by Tory Bruno that helps to explain the contract arrangement that many people confuse for a subsidy:

    One contract buys each rocket, and the contract that is often confused for a subsidy operates the pads, including the rocket launches.

    The problem that this duel-contract system fixes is that the Air Force, ULA’s primary customer, is not consistent with its payload and launch cadence. This was leaving ULA in the lurch during years of low launches. ULA still had to pay for pad maintenance and for launch crews, but if there were only one or two launches that year, ULA lost a lot of money. Separating the costs of the two work forces made the most sense, and that is how the Air Force and ULA agreed to make sure ULA did not go out of business due to the Air Force’s wild swings in launch needs.

    When ULA announces the cost of a launch, it includes an estimated amortized amount of the second (launch) contract.

    When people misuse the word “subsidy” for things that are not subsidized, it only reduces the awareness of actual subsidized goods or services. SpaceX and ULA are not subsidized the way that Arianespace is. Arianespace charges less money than it actually costs to run the company, from manufacturing to launches to development of the next rocket, so Europe makes up the difference.

    Some of the communication satellites that we Americans (as well as other countries) use for our television (even broadcast TV is sometimes sent to local broadcasters via satellite), satellite radio, and other services are launched on Ariane rockets. It is one of the few things that other countries overpay for that we Americans get to enjoy for a lower cost than it actually cost.

    Thank you Europe.

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