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.

July 29, 2016 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

The podcast is now fixed and available! John Batchelor thanks Willi for spotting the problem.

Embedded below the fold. John Batchelor titled this appearance very accurately: “Condemning Orion.” He likes to say that I am sometimes cranky. I was especially cranky tonight in reviewing why I think the way NASA is selling Orion is an outright lie.


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  • Willi

    The link is to the wrong audio because the link is bad on John’s site.

  • Thank you. I have contacted John Batchelor and hope to have this fixed quickly.

  • Kirk

    Most skeptics seem to harp on SLS and give Orion a free ride, but at least SLS will be able to do something useful, albeit at an exorbitant price. Orion, on the other hand, is good only for tailor made missions such as ARM, which itself is described as only a technology demonstrator.

    I cringe every time I hear NASA say Orion and Mars in the same sentence. It’s not large enough and doesn’t have the endurance required to act as a “lifeboat” for more than a couple of weeks. A habitat module with sufficient redundancy must be part of any plan for transport to and from Mars, and any Earth launch/reentry capsule that will be carried all the way to Mars and back (including insertion into and departure from Mars orbit) needs to be as light as possible. Orion with its service module weighs over 25 tons dry and 35 tons with propellant. Compare that to the Soyuz reentry capsule which weighs less than 3 tons.

    I look forward to listening to your segment when the link is fixed.

  • Kirk: You will enjoy the podcast, but I wonder based on your comments whether you saw my essay on Orion earlier this week, entitled The Lie that is Orion. I think you will be especially amused by ROCKY and the graphic they provided to show its use in Orion.

  • wayne

    Link is up & working at JBS.
    (I wouldn’t say “cranky,” I’d say… “well informed!”)

  • wayne

    Mr. Z–
    You made the “best of” weekend-edition on the JBS.
    5 years ago: “Caves of the Moon”

  • Localfluff

    The development of Orion is a horror story of delays and cost overruns.
    There is no plan for how to use it, no mission planned which isn’t a joke.

    But here the Orion is (I hope, soon). The development costs are sunk costs. The SLS is worse off since its operating costs are uncompetitive too. If the Orion could be reusable in space, I think it has a useful role to play. It is specified to support (four?) astronauts for three weeks. Orion is much larger than the private alternatives. It has a toilette. The Dragon and Starliner are shuttles to and from the ISS (they were designed to solve a specified task, the Orion is political capacity thrown out into the nothingness).

    Orion could, I think, function like an exploration vehicle that detaches from the much larger spaceship to descent on an asteroid or a moon of Mars. Or to a spacecraft to service it. Orion should be able to reach to Sun-Earth-L2 to where a $8bn telescope will be sent next year. With a robotic arm in the service module and two astronauts available for an EVA, instruments could be upgraded.

    Astronauts say that space is much larger in 3D weightlessness, than when one has to walk on a floor. But it’s not a gym! And one doesn’t need to exercise during a 3 week excursion, which the Orion is designed to do (somewhere). ROCKY is a big misunderstanding of the potential and purpose of the Orion. Everything which claims to be for “health in microgravity” gets a green card from the fooled space community. It is like political correctness, it makes no sense, it’s just irrational group think which evolves randomly in its own ways. Space is dangerous, fear fear fear, you’ve gotta pay us more! Is the monotonic message from the space hypochondriacs.

  • Phil Veerkamp

    Bob, this is sort of off – topic, but LOOK
    Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images for Sol 1417
    [[[to my untrained eye – these look organic ]]]

  • Phil: Quite intriguing, I will agree. However, don’t jump too quickly to any conclusions. For one, we do not know if this image shows a spot where the rover has rolled. Most of these marks could be scratch marks from the wheels. Also, from my geological observations in caves, I’ve seen a lot of very strange but naturally formed rocks that were made entirely by inorganic processes. The same could have happened here.

    Nonetheless, these marks remain very interesting. I would love to hear what the science team thinks of them. Note also that these close-up ground images were obtained in connection with planned drilling operations.

  • Phil Veerkamp

    Bob: I’ve been a rover photo fan going back to Spirit’s and Opportunity’s first. I’ve viewed thousands and thousands of mars rock images. They WILL invest extra time on these . . . but . . . I AM a novice . . . we shall see . . .

  • Phil Veerkamp

    Bob, yesterday’s bore revealed a subsurface color and texture that to this layman’s eye looks different. Most [all?] previous sub surface material was gray/blue-gray and “loose”.

    Yesterday’s bore material continues to be “reddish” below the surface and more clumpy. The grindings appear to have a greater tendency to adhere. But mainly the color is different. I stick by my forecast of extra time being invested here.


  • Phil: I agree that they will spend some time doing more observations at this site. In fact, it appears they are. To my eye, these pictures of the drill surface suggest the material is softer than past drill holes. It looks almost like they are drilling into a hardened dry soil.

  • wayne

    This is highly interesting!
    (My wife was a Geologist & she would have loved to get up close & personal with Mars. )

    (Hopefully) a humorous interlude….
    “You blabbed Quaid, you blabbed about Mars!”

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