Leaving Earth cover

In 2019 I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I sold about half of these, and with only a handful left in stock I have raised the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

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

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!

Also available as an inexpensive ebook!

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

North Korea test fires four ballistic missiles

Does this make you feel safe? North Korea today test fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea on Monday launched four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, the Japanese government said. There were no immediate reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area, Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at a news conference in Tokyo, calling the latest missile launch a “grave threat to national security.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately told reporters that the missiles traveled around 1,000 km. He later said at a Diet session that the remaining missile also fell near the EEZ.

It is very unclear whether these missile tests were a success, since we really don’t know what kind of missiles they were. If short or medium range, they went the right distance. If longer range, the distance traveled (600 miles or 1000 kilometers) suggests the missiles did not travel as far as they should.

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.


  • D.K. Williams

    If it was a test, the N. Koreans would have launched one missile. This was an expensive temper tantrum.

  • Garry

    Not only that; as I understand it, normally the downrange area is closed off to vessels for the sake of safety, but apparently the Japanese were given no notice that 3 of the missiles were to land in waters under their control. Imagine if the missiles had damaged a Japanese vessel?

  • wayne

    Personally– I want their entire country and ever single living thing in it, wiped off the face of the Earth, and I do not care, how that is physically accomplished.

  • Wayne: You are moving a bit too close to genocide here. Defeating the North Korean leadership is what is needed. This might also entail some serious additional killing to make sure we have gotten them all. However, killing everyone indiscriminately is a mistake, is inhuman, and would make us no different then them.

  • Cotour

    “Wayne: You are moving a bit too close to genocide here.”

    A bit too close?

    Lets be rational Wayne.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.;
    All absolutely true.

    Personally…. I just don’t care anymore.

  • wayne

    I care less than nothing about the enemy. They are an existential threat— pure strategy over morality.
    The gap between “a sufficient number,” and “all of them,” is a targeting error.

  • Wayne: I so strongly disagree with you I can hardly express it. Evil wants to kill all of its enemies, indiscriminately, for its personal convenience. That is the position you are now advocating. It is the position taken by the Nazis, the Communists, the pro-abortion crowd, and any number of petty dictators and tyrants throughout human history. That you consider this justifiable under any circumstances I find more than disappointing.

    You might want to reread Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Despite four years of vicious war, he did not see it justified to murder everyone in the south. Instead, he called for mercy.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z., sorry to elicit that response in you.

    I’m no Lincoln.
    It’s just how I feel, about “them.” I’m already out-the-barn and down-the-road a considerable distance, on this one.

    I would note, 72 years ago on March 9-10, 1945, “Operation Meetinghouse,” reduced 16 square miles of Tokyo to ash with 100,000 enemy killed.

    Victor Davis Hanson:
    “War in the Post Modern World – Why the new laws of conflict are surreal.”

  • Wayne: The use of the atomic bomb in Japan was not with the intention of killing the entire population. The intent was to get them to surrender quickly to save lives, both ours and theirs. Once they did, we moved in and helped them rebuild their society so that it would be a better place afterward.

    You are proposing killing everyone, indiscriminately. This is lazy thinking. Just because you are tired with the battles we have been facing is not reason to stop thinking hard about these hard issues.

  • Garry

    I submit that we were in a very different situation at the time of Operation Meetinghouse than we are now. The entire population of Japan was mobilized to fight World War Two, and a huge part of that was the industrial effort. Even when I lived in Tokyo in the mid 90s, most of the city was mixed zoning; our neighborhood looked like a residential area, but every morning I was woken up by trucks coming up from factories in basements of what looked like apartment buildings.

    Unlike Germany’s concentrated industry that made it very vulnerable to bombing campaigns, much of Japan’s industry was scattered in houses throughout the whole country; in many cases families were consigned production in their houses. The relatively few concentrations of industrial facilities were often hard to bomb because of topography (lots of steep mountains) and low cloud ceilings.

    On top of that, the Japanese people were all stoked up with the bushido spirit, and would fight to the last survivor (at one point the elderly, women, and even children were issued long poles, bayonets, and rope so they could make a weapon to stand off the imperialist invaders).

    Operation Meetinghouse targeted the logistics of what was an existential threat, and without it I don’t know if we would have prevailed.

    I see North Korea as a very different situation; I think Kim is desperate to hang on to power, with his people being impoverished, weak, and technically backward. Yes, they have nukes, but that’s about the extent of their post 1950s technology.

    Although they have an impressively large military for their population, it doesn’t pose much of a threat other than its nuclear weapons, and most of the population is employed in in sustenance farming. North Korea is a house of cards waiting to fall.

    I think if Kim is overthrown and the nukes secured, the population would not pose much threat; worst case scenario would be a short-lived invasion of South Korea that would do some damage (as General Turgidson said, “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgyjlqhiTV8)

    If we could pull that off, the biggest challenge would be fighting China for what the next steps would be (my preference would be South Korea and Japan helping them overhaul their agriculture and other infrastructure).

  • Garry

    Mr. Z, Wayne was referring to the firebombing of Tokyo, not Fat Man and Little Boy. I agree with your point about why we dropped Fat Man and Little Boy, but Operation Meetinghouse came before that, and I don’t think anybody expected it to result in an immediate surrender.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were messages that said, “See, now with just a few planes we can do what we did to Tokyo, without having to wait for perfect weather. Maybe you should consider surrendering.”

  • Cotour

    I would like to make a distinction here: I understand S.O.M. in many of its perverted agendas and justifications in the pursuit of the acquisition of power and the retention of power. Wayne apparently is a balls to the wall, right out of the box applier of S.O.M., little or no over arching agenda required . Two very different things.

    (And I am certain that Wayne is a great person, although a super nerd :)

    And I quote: Wayne: “Cotour, I really do not get this S.O.M thang”

    You got it alright, I just codified and described what you already believed. They walk among us.

  • Steve Earle

    Garry, you beat me to it. Wayne was referring to Tokyo, not Hiroshima or Nagasaki. (which by the way, are thriving cities today in spite of being made Radioactive….. hmmm)

    Wayne, I am leaning your way on this, how many more years do we wait for the “innocent” people of North Korea to rise up against their Evil Leaders? Do we wait until they’ve dropped a Nuke or two on Japan? Fairbanks? Anchorage? San Francisco?

    How about when they sell some small nukes that end up in terrorist hands?

    I don’t think any of us is seriously wishing for Genocide, but if that was the only choice to prevent a nuclear attack by madmen that also just might touch off World War III…..

    At this point in time, the world would be a much better place if North Korea was wiped off the face of the Earth.

    Harsh? Yes. True? Also YES.

    To quote from 2010 A Space Odyssey:

    Curnow: “So it’s him or us? I vote us. All opposed? […] The ayes have it.”

  • wayne

    I don’t intend to be flippant or totally clinical, and I do sorta dislike being “that guy.”
    If the question is ultimately, do I feel safer or not, with North Korea in existence, my answer is “no,” and words can not describe how sick I am of them, their nuclear weapons, and their rockets.

    I’ll qualify my blatant destroy-them-all & salt the earth rant with “complete destruction of their command-control-communications, a sufficient number of enemy-people killed, and a
    majority of their physical stuff, broken beyond repair.”

    Cotour– Har.

    Garry– Good stuff.
    (In many ways, I really have, learned to stop worrying & love the bomb.)

  • Garry: I stand corrected, though my point still holds. Even with the firebombing of Tokyo, the intent was not genocide, but finding a way to end the war quicker with the least amount of bloodshed. Wayne has been advocating something quite different.

  • Cotour

    You do realize that N. Korea is the tool of the Chinese for the most part. And the things that they do are designed to destabilize the U.S. and its allies.

    Although the Hermit Kingdom is by any measure one crazy assed place, I am doubtful that what they are up to (at this moment in time) is to launch a nuke and bring all hell down upon them, especially with Trump on the button.

    When I saw this picture I immediately thought of N. Korea, they are exact analogies.


    You stopped looking at me, look at me.

  • Edward

    Please keep in mind that most of the North Korean people are the victims of communism, not the perpetrators. Just as the vast majority of Soviet comrades turned out to be decent people, most of the North Koreans are only trying to live long enough for rescue to arrive.

    As for the atomic bombing and firebombing of Japanese cities, as Robert notes, the US was attempting to convince the population to insist that their leaders sue for peace before an invasion resulted in the population fighting to the death for their country. The increasing intensity of Japanese resistance as the US got closer to Japan convinced the US leadership that an invasion would result in millions of dead, where perhaps one million of them would be US soldiers. The Japanese were not awaiting rescue, they were loyal to their emperor.

    It took that much for the emperor to finally overrule his military leadership and sue for peace. I do not think that those living in socialist and communist nations are that fanatical, but their leadership may be. It is yet another lesson from Hitler, a Nationalist Socialist who insisted upon fighting to the last man. It would be better to free them rather than to destroy them. Most will likely turn out to be nice people.

  • wayne

    Steve/Edward– good stuff.

    last one from me–
    The Fire Bombing of Japan

  • D.K. Williams

    I’m more worried about Iran.

  • wodun

    D.K. Williams
    March 6, 2017 at 9:20 pm
    I’m more worried about Iran.

    Ya, Iran is fanatical. MAD isn’t a deterrent to them. Kim Jong Un wants to live forever and never stop living the god life. I am not sure what he is after but he knows that if he nuked someone, he would cease to exist. He is willing to make all of his people suffer but he doesn’t want to suffer.

    Pakistan is another scary one. They are mostly hostile with India but also have that huge jihadi presence. Jihadists with nuclear weapons would require a full mobilization of our entire populace and possibly the use of our own nukes.

    There are a number of countries that could consider their own nuke programs in response to Iran and NK. Nonproliferation looks dead unless we, or the UN, can somehow get these countries to give up their nukes.

  • Cotour

    “Nonproliferation” ?

    Our own government under the Obama administration released to the Iranian government $150 BILLION DOLLARS + $10 BILLION more in cash and gold without any verifiable assurances that they would not be able to develop nukes. The Obama administration actually assured the Iranians that they would indeed be able to develop nukes, Obama even assured them that WE would protect them from others who would conspire to attack them because of it (Israel).

    The consequences to elections can be severe indeed. Obama and The Obama legacy needs to be introduced to the term Treason!

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