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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


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

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
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Gale Crater as seen by Curiosity from the heights of Mount Sharp

Gale Crater as seen by Curiosity from the heights of Mount Sharp
Click for original image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Though Curiosity still lies more than 13,000 feet below the peak of Mount Sharp, in its ten years on Mars it has climbed a considerable distance uphill since leaving the floor of 97-mile-wide Gale Crater, about 2,400 feet. The panorama above, taken today by one of Curiosity’s navigation cameras and rotated and cropped to post here, gives us a good sense of the elevation the rover has gained in that time.

The overview map to the right provides some perspective. Curiosity’s present location is indicated by the blue dot, with the yellow lines indicating the direction of this panorama. Though Curiosity climbed up from that valley on the lower left, none of its route is visible in this picture, as the weaved up from the left and the steepness of the ground hides the lower sections.

The mountain chain in the distance, about 20 to 25 miles away, is the north rim of Gale Crater. Beyond it can faintly be seen other mountains, which form the rim of another smaller crater to the north. The peak of Mount Sharp, about 23 miles to the south and in the opposite direction, forms the wide central peak of Gale Crater, unusual in that it fills much of the crater and rises higher than the crater’s rim, factors which were part of the reason this location was chosen as Curiosity’s landing site.

This picture also allows scientists to get a sense of the dust levels in the Martian atmosphere, which change seasonally depending on dust storm activity. Since it is now summer on Mars, when dust activity is low, the air is relatively clear.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

One comment

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “The mountain chain in the distance, about 20 to 25 miles away, is the north rim of Gale Crater. … The peak of Mount Sharp, about 23 miles to the south and in the opposite direction …

    Holy Mars, Batman! This means that to reach the top of Mount Sharp, Curiosity has to travel a distance similar to what we see from here to the north rim. That is quite a journey.

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