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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
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Italian subcontractor for Arianespace misplaces two rocket tanks

This story is hard to believe but true: The Italian company Avio, one of the subcontractors for Arianespace that builds its smaller rockets Vega and Vega-C, apparently misplaced two rocket tanks that were to be used on the Vega rocket’s last launch, thus preventing that launch entirely.

The two propellant tanks that went missing were housed in an Avio production department in Colleferro that had undergone renovation work. At some point following the completion of the renovations, the two tanks were found to be missing.

According to the initial source, the tanks had not been entered into a company-wide asset management system that tracked the location of all vital Avio components. This ensured that the teams tasked with investigating the disappearance had very little to go on when beginning their search for the missing tanks.

Despite the futility of the search, the tanks were eventually found. This was, however, not the good news Avio had hoped for. The tanks are, unfortunately, not in a usable state. They had been crushed and were found alongside metal scraps in a landfill.

The tanks power Vega’s fourth stage that deploys satellites in orbit. They were to be used on the final flight of Vega, which has been delayed repeatedly for unexplained reasons. We now know the reason.

Because this was the final flight, however, the tanks cannot be replaced because the Vega production line has been shut down. The company is considering using two of the four qualification tanks first built more than a decade ago when Vega was first being tested, but those were test tanks and have been sitting unused for as long. It will be difficult to determine their reliability.

Europe’s government-run rocket program thus at present has no rocket capable of launching. Its Ariane-5 is retired. Its Vega cannot launch. Its Vega-C, which replaces the Vega, remains grounded due to a launch failure in December 2022, with the next launch expected no earlier than late in 2024. And its new Ariane-6 rocket won’t do its first launch until the summer of 2024, at the earliest.

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


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