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.

October 6, 2020 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Embedded below the fold in two parts.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

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.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


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


If Patreon or Paypal don'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

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • Icepilot

    For the two dozen exoplanets, two questions (likely for the future):
    Are they double-planets like Earth-Luna?
    What is the metallicity (or generation) of each star?
    Both may be critical factors regarding the initiation of life.

  • mkent

    Robert: I don’t know if you’ll see this comment, since it’s on a post on page 13 of your blog (I’m a bit behind on listening to your Batchelor show podcasts (absolutely great podcasts, by the way)), but I wanted to add some information about the ISS that wasn’t apparent from the podcast itself.

    First, Zvezda (also known as the Service Module) was the third ISS module launched (behind the FGB and Node 1), but that’s a minor nit. More important is the possibility of separating the two halves of the ISS into separate space stations.

    You were correct when you hinted that the ISS is really two separate space stations joined at the FGB. The American side (known as the USOS (the United States Operating Segment)) can’t function long without the Russian side (known as the ROS (the Russian Operating Segment)). While the USOS now has its own life support, crew return vehicle, gyroscopic attitude control, electrical generation, heat rejection, communications, and command and control, it lacks the propulsive attitude control and orbital reboost capability provided by the Service Module.

    While the Control Moment Gyros (CMGs) on the Z-1 truss can provide attitude control for quite some time, unbalanced torques will eventually saturate the CMGs, requiring them to be desaturated while the thrusters on the Service Module fire. In addition, without the Service Module, the ISS has no orbital reboost capability, so it will re-enter the atmosphere about 1-2 years after separation.

    I think the proposed Axiom module can provide both of those functions, but don’t quote me on that.

    It’s not all rosy on the ROS either. The FGB is actually owned by the Americans (it was paid for by the U. S. taxpayers), so after separation they would be cut off from their own Docking and Stowage module attached to it. Perhaps worse, the ROS relies on the USOS for most of its power. *Each* of the four solar array trusses on the USOS provides about ten times the electrical power as the Service Module. As part of the giant barter system that is the ISS program, the ROS draws most of its power from the USOS.

    So while the Russians *say* they’re going to separate their modules from the ISS and go their own way (and they probably really want to), they can’t do it any more than we can. And if the Russian science module’s 20-year journey to the launch site shows anything, it’s that the U. S. can develop and build new space station modules a whole lot faster than the Russians.

  • mkent: Interesting engineering details, most of which I had read years past but had forgotten.

    Overall, it does appear the Russians are in a weaker position than the U.S. They can’t get anything new built and don’t have the cash to do it even if they could. We have an increasingly thriving commercial space industry that is building things fast, and making money in the process. Even if ISS is approaching its wear date, the U.S. is well positioned to replace its capabilities, while Russia is not.

  • PS. All new comments show up on my feed, when they happen, regardless of the post they are sent to. And they also show up in the “most-recent comments” section in the right column when they are posted, irrelevant to the post itself.

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 *