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.

Murray Buttes panorama by Curiosity released

The Curiosity science team has released a full panorama taken by Curiosity of Murray Buttes prior to its journey through them.

The reason I am not posting this new panorama here on Behind the Black is because I had already posted an almost identical panorama more than a week ago, and my assembled panorama used higher resolution images from Curiosity and was not partly obscured by Curiosity itself. Moreover, I provided better context for that panorama, placing it within Curiosity’s overall travels, something NASA in today’s press release fails to do.

So, if you want to see the best cool images from space and see them sooner than everyone else, why bother reading NASA press releases? Read Behind the Black instead! :)


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  • Bob-
    Maybe you could get NASA to pay you because you are more in tune with what people rely want to see?

  • Phil Veerkamp

    – – – The Marimba mystery – – –

    Bob, I’m near certain that this is a first for Curiosity’s CheMin analysis of a drill sample. (chemical-mineral)
    On Fri, 19 Aug 2016 Curiosity scientists directed the fourth (4th!) CheMin analysis of the Marimba drill sample.
    I say that Marimba’s CheMin results will be the story of the year . . . that is if the results are released within the year . . .


    Mon, 01 Aug 2016
    “Today’s plan was all about setting up for our next drill hole. Originally there was going to be no science block at all, but we ended up with a little bit more power than expected, so we managed to fit in a ChemCam observation of the expected drill target, called ‘Marimba’ . . . ”
    Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images for Sol 1416 – Marimba

    Tue, 02 Aug 2016
    “The drilling campaign on Marimba continues, dominating the Sol 1419 plan. Again, the tactical operations team was able to squeeze some additional science activities into the plan . . . ”

    Wed, 03 Aug 2016
    “. . . So the focus of the Sol 1420 plan is drilling into the Marimba bedrock target . . . ”
    Fri, 05 Aug 2016
    “On Sol 1420 we planned a full drill hole on the target “Marimba” to characterize the composition of the Murray mudstone in this location. However, we came in early this morning to find that the drill hole didn’t penetrate very far into this rock target, as seen in the above MAHLI image. We’re trying to evaluate why this drill hole is different, and what prevented the drill from completing as planned. . . . ”

    Mon, 08 Aug 2016 – [1st CheMin analysis]
    “The second attempt to drill into Marimba went well, but the new drill sample was not transferred to CHIMRA due to a recurrence of the electrical short in the percussion mechanism. Therefore, the sample was not delivered to CheMin as planned. So we tried again on Sol 1425, this time without percussion (using only more gentle vibration). . . . CheMin will analyze the Marimba drill sample overnight, . . .”

    Tue, 09 Aug 2016
    “Today’s plan is focused on retrieving CheMin data from the overnight analysis of the Marimba drill sample . . .”

    Wed, 10 Aug 2016
    “After successfully completing the drilling activities at Marimba, it’s time to get back on the road. . . . ”

    Thu, 11 Aug 2016 – [2nd CheMin analysis]
    “. . . Overnight, CheMin will perform another analysis of the Marimba drill sample, to improve the quality of mineralogical data.”

    Mon, 15 Aug 2016
    “. . . After the drive, we have post-drive imaging, and some onboard data processing of the MAHLI images of the “Marimba” drill hole, as well as some CheMin data processing. . . . ”

    Wed, 17 Aug 2016 – [3rd CheMin analysis]
    “. . . CheMin will also be doing its third analysis of the “Marimba2” drill sample and then reading out its data to be downlinked.”

    Fri, 19 Aug 2016 – [4th CheMin analysis]
    “. . . CheMin will also do another analysis of Marimba2 overnight . . . ”

  • Phil: You could be right, but the fact that they did four analyses of the sample might not be because the sample is so unique. It could also be related to the electrical design problem that exists in Curiosity’s drill system. Some additional quotes from the update blog:

    Sol 1425:
    “The second attempt to drill into Marimba went well, but the new drill sample was not transferred to CHIMRA due to a recurrence of the electrical short in the percussion mechanism.”

    Sol 1427:
    “Overnight, Curiosity will complete a SAM electrical baseline test to monitor instrument health.”

    Sol 1428-1431:
    “The primary constraint on planning today ended up being power–we tried to fit more into the plan than the rover’s batteries could support!”

    Nonetheless, if you are right and this is the first time they have analysized a drill sample, than this is a unique situation. If you can confirm for me that this is really the first time they done this, I think I will promote this story to the front page of BtB.

  • Phil Veerkamp

    Bob, that’s a tough search for a 72 year old hobbyist . . . working on it . . .

    Perhaps you might consider sending me your email contact?

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