Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. 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.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:


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


If Paypal doesn'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

NASA names acting administrator

NASA yesterday named Robert Lightfoot as the Acting NASA administrator, taking over from Charles Bolden when he leaves on January 20, 2017 at the start of the Trump administration.

Lightfoot is a former Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, having begun his NASA career there in 1989. He transferred to NASA Headquarters in 2012 to serve as Associate Administrator, the highest ranking civil service position in the agency. It is traditional for the highest ranking NASA civil servant to take over as acting administrator during changes in presidential administrations. The Trump transition has not always followed traditional paths so today’s announcement provided some degree of reassurance. Bolden said the Trump transition team officially told NASA yesterday that Lightfoot will serve in that job. A mechanical engineer, he has served in many capacities at Marshall, Stennis Space Center and Headquarters, including assistant associate administrator for the space shuttle program (2003-2005) at headquarters and manager of the space shuttle propulsion office at MSFC (2005-2007). He was named MSFC Deputy Director in 2007 and Director in 2009.

Essentially Lightfoot will act as a placeholder until the new administration names its pick for the position.

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.


  • If they need a placeholder, why not Gordon Lightfoot?

  • wayne

    can’t resist…

    The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    –some good archival footage–

  • LocalFluff

    Could the explanation for this non-move is that the transition team is uninterested, or divided? Sounds like this step-in would happen if the administrator would resign for any reason any time. Not like a deliberate decision made by the new White House. Maybe he’ll stay there for 8 years.

  • Frank

    I hope the Obama administration’s Muslim outreach program will end.

  • LocalFluff: This appointment of an acting administrator is a normal transition procedure. The political appointee resigns, and in the time period before a new one is chosen the second in command takes over temporarily. There is nothing strange here. And there is zero chance the Trump administration will not appoint someone.

  • wayne

    Right with you on that thought.

  • LocalFluff

    Speculations here and there on twitter and forums say that Jim Bridenstine has publically positioned himself for the post as NASA administrator rather than competing for heading the Air Force.

    He seems to be a Moon-man, which could give the clear priority that NASA now desperately needs. But he has spoken about producing fuel on the Moon to supply space crafts orbiting earth. That doesn’t add up. I hope he finds his pocket calculator and doesn’t get fooled by even crazier ideas. Another ARM kind of fantasy mission would be the termination of NASA.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “producing fuel on the Moon to supply space crafts orbiting earth. That doesn’t add up.

    Actually, it does add up.

    There are a large number of ideas for refueling satellites on orbit, and there are at least two companies working on doing it. The Russians have a method for refueling space stations, which they used on MIR and occasionally use on the ISS. Extending the lives of certain satellites makes a great deal of sense. There was one satellite operator, decades ago, who compared the lifetime of a satellite to throwing away a car once the ashtray filled up.

    ULA understands that getting material off the moon and into Earth orbit is easier (less fuel and expense) than sending it up from the Earth. I have linked to this CisLunar-1000 video before, but it describes this concept and other concepts, as well as their expectation of an increase in humans in space over the course of the next three decades: (7 minutes)

    For those who think we should develop the Moon before developing Mars, it looks like there are plenty of companies and people who have their eyes on the Moon. Since it is closer, easier, and faster to reach, I think we can be confident that more will be done on the Moon sooner than things get done on Mars.

    The next NASA administrator is likely to oversee a very exciting time for Earth’s space programs. With luck and good leadership, he and NASA will once again become leaders, partners, resources, and inspirations for these efforts.

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 *