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.

Internet tycoon commits $100 million to alien life search

Russian internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner has given SETI $100 million for a ten year project to accelerate their effort to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Understanding why SETI needs private funding is important:

SETI has been going on since 1960, when radio telescopes became sensitive enough to detect signals from another planet if it was broadcasting signals similar to those which our civilization does. Researchers developed devices that could monitor millions of frequencies at once for any signal that looked at all different from that produced by astronomical objects or the natural background. At first funded by universities and NASA, public funding for SETI was axed by Congress in the early 1990s. Since then, the nonprofit SETI League has received funding of a few million dollars a year from private donors.

Congress correctly cut the funds because it isn’t really the business of the federal government to search for alien life. Some taxpayers really don’t want their money used for that purpose, and they should have the right to say no. Instead, Congress essentially told SETI to do it right: Get private funding from people who want the research done. The work will be done more efficiently for less, and no one will be required to contribute who doesn’t want to.

Milner’s contribution now is the biggest donation yet, and suggests that interest in this research is building culturally.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • Nick P

    What happened with Paul Allen’s radio telescope array up in Northern California, Hat Creek isn’t it?

    I though he put a lot of money into it.

  • J Fincannon

    I can see your point that it is not the function of government to send messages into space to potential alien civilizations. However, I do see a role for government to regulate the sending of such messages.

    As to the role of government in funding scientific research to try to detect signals from potential civilizations, I do not see a difference between this activity and using radio or optical or infrared telescopes to look into space for whatever scientists seem to feel is important enough to look at. If you dismiss government funding of SETI, you might as well dismiss the public funding of all deep space, ground based telescopes. Is the rationale that SETI sounds crazy? It is still knowledge, and some can argue the value of the knowledge is greater than something about distant quasars or black holes or galaxies.

  • Edward

    The Allen Telescope Array (owned by SETI, not Allen) is still there and operational. Allen’s donation was enough to build 42 of the planned 350 radio telescopes and the buildings and support hardware. Funding for operations has been a problem in the recent past, and they occasionally rent out the telescopes to other researchers.

    The article makes it sound as though the funds will go toward software creation and signal analysis rather than to go toward completion of the remaining telescopes at Hat Creek.

  • Cotour

    Q: How likely is it that any advanced civilization is detectable by our level of technology?

    I think that the numbers would indicate that any other civilization that might exist in the universe would probably be very much more advanced than we are.

  • Edward

    Funny you should ask. That would be the combination of the unknown values fc and L of the Drake Equation, invented by SETI’s own Dr. Frank Drake.

    BTW: I have a facetious saying that SETI is futile:

    – We could be the first intelligence in the universe; some species has to be, and it’s possible that it is us. Therefore SETI is futile.

    – Other intelligent beings could have a policy of non-interference. Therefore SETI is futile.

    – Other beings could be too advanced for us to detect. Therefore SETI is futile.

    On the other hand, a couple of minutes ago, just before I hit the submit button, SETI could have announced that they found a signal. Don’t you just hate when that happens? ;-)

  • Cotour

    Our ability to generate, send, detect and interpret signals in the electromagnetic spectrum is lets say a little more than 100 years old (technically able to detect and interpret a signal is probably more like just 60 years), and the universe itself is 14 billion years old. That’s a pretty less then microscopic slice of time in comparison, the timing overlap for detection for two advanced technologies to detect each other would have to be incalculable. Keeping in mind that our solar system has come to exist in the aprox. last third of the universes existence. What happened in the first two thirds ?

    I would tend to say the odds were futile at best for detecting a more advanced technology and maybe just slightly better than futile for detecting a less advanced technology. But there is always the potential for something to be learned when someone is able to spend a whole lot of money on some very cool high tech equipment.

    And we wait.

    Q#2: If a verifiable signal was to be detected would the discovery be immediately released or might it be withheld for security or “other” reasons? Might it be a Homeland Security issue?

  • Edward

    Cotour asked: ” What happened in the first two thirds ?”

    Some years ago, I was at a seminar in which the speaker suggested that it probably takes three generations of stars to create the amount of rocky material that makes up our solar system, meaning that the material of our rocky planets may have been through a couple of nova explosions before becoming our solar system.

    If this is true, we may be early in the timeline for life to form.

    Second question: ” If a verifiable signal was to be detected would the discovery be immediately released or might it be withheld for security or “other” reasons? Might it be a Homeland Security issue?”

    That is hard to say. From behaviors over the past century or so, when many people believed that life existed on Mars or believed that UFO sightings are actual space aliens, we can assume that no one is going to panic if we find a verified signal, nor should there be any immediate security issue over a signal. It would take too long for space aliens to get here in order to strip mine our planet, as in the movie “Independence Day,” or for friendlier space aliens to get here with their book “To Serve Man” and their cures for diseases, abundant food sources, and their popular free vacation flights to visit their paradise home planet. ;-)

    There have been no rumors that I have heard that SETI has been asked to delay issuing any news of unusual signals, verified or not. There is also the famous and mysterious “Wow!” signal. It was not kept secret, but no radio astronomer has been able to get it again — it is unverified.!_signal

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *