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My February birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black it now over. I sincerely and with deep gratitude thank all those who donated. Without your support I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. For those who did not contribute during the campaign, please consider adding your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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. Donate through Gabpay, using my email address zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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

4. A Paypal Donation:

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5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
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InSight’s power status holding steady on Mars

InSight's status as of August 9, 2022

Yesterday the InSight science team posted the lander’s ongoing power status, as it has been doing about every week since in June the team announced that they expected power to run out sometime in August, ending the mission.

I have created the graph to the right, showing the data from all those updates, to try to glean the overall trends. The red line indicates the tau level of dust in the atmosphere, essentially telling us how much that dust is blocking light from the Sun. Normally outside of dust season this number should range from 0.6 to 0.7. Since May 17 that dust level has been steadily declining, which thus increases the amount of sunlight reaching the panels.

The blue line marks the amount of power the lander’s panels have been able to produce. The lack of change in this line reveals both good and bad news. The good news is that the power level is holding steady, at a level that allows InSight’s one operating instrument, its seismometer, to continue to function. Should this power level continue to remain stable, that seismometer should be able to operate past August, thus extending the instrument’s life longer than expected.

The bad news is that the power levels are not going up as the dust level is dropping. This suggests that the dust layer on the panels that is preventing them from generating power is actually getting thicker. InSight has still not experienced any puff of Mars’ weak wind capable of blowing dust off those panels. Instead, as the dust settles out of the atmosphere with the end of dust season, some is settling on the panels themselves.

As new updates arrive I will update this graph. Stay tuned. InSight is not yet dead, though the vultures are unfortunately circling overhead.

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.


  • John

    One critical piece of information is missing: how much power does InSight need?

  • John: According to the previous press release (which I link to), it began with 5000 watts generated per day, and has been down to around 400-500 per day in recent months.

    I have not located the minimum watt hours required, but if the number stays above 400 that appears to be enough to keep the seismometer operating.

  • Todd Brown

    Robert, How is it that these engineers know before hand that dust in the atmosphere may be an issue for the solar panels? They didnt think of some fan or wiper blade like found on all modern cars to allow for proper panel solar extraction.

  • Todd Brown: This issue has been argued over many times. Putting a “wiper blade” on the panels is not as simple as you might think, especially because, based on the tiny nature of the dust particles, it likely would not work, or would have required serious and expensive engineering to make work.

    More important, weight considerations made almost any solution difficult. The engineers instead decided, based on their budget and weight limits, to take the same risk that worked on the little rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Both had been launched with a planned 90 day mission, and both lasted years beyond that. The panels periodically got covered with dust, but unexpectedly, dust devils would also periodically pass over and blow them clean. This happened many times, allowing both rovers to survive for years, with Opportunity lasting more than a decade.

    So far, however, for InSight this gamble has failed.

    Having said this, overall InSight was not a well managed project. Do a search on BtB for “InSight”, go back to the beginning, and read its history. Lots of screw-ups along the way.


    “I don’t believe in miracles, I depend upon them.”

  • Star Bird

    Enough for Eludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

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