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.

Problem with InSight’s weather station

Engineers are troubleshooting a problem with the weather sensors on the InSight lander on Mars that has prevented them from collecting data since August 16th.

[The weather system] is in safe mode and unlikely to be reset before the end of the month while mission team members work toward a diagnosis. JPL engineers are optimistic that resetting the control computer may address the issue but need to investigate the situation further before returning the sensors to normal.

Overall InSight has turned out to be of mixed success. The seismometer has worked as planned, but the mole designed to drill the heat thermometer sixteen feet into the ground has so far failed to work, and now the weather station has shut down, though hopefully only temporarily.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over

I cannot thank enough the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.

Thank you again!

Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, 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.

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  • LocalFluff

    Insight’s results are meager. It hasn’t given much insight into Mars. While the seismometer works just fine, there isn’t much seismic activity above the noise level to measure. It isn’t a failure, a null result is also an interesting result. But there’s not much to study of it.

    The failure of the mole was caused by the ignorance of the Martian soil. I hope that Perseverance’s core drill is more robust. Low gravity, no water or organics, no plate tectonics and billions of years of dust storms have made something else than what is on Earth. And over elaborate German engineering on top of that, well perhaps we should’ve seen this coming.

    And the weather station. They put a weather station on every spacecraft now, because they are low weight and simple. Not too much new is learned from them. UAE’s orbiter will figure out Mars’ global weather patterns, that’ll be real progress. It is for example poorly understood how global dust storms can occur episodically.

    What I like with Insight is its arm, that can bang and push the mole. If the horribly named Osiris-REX had had one like that, it would’ve picked up rocks and be on its way home already.

  • Richard M

    Worth noting that InSight’s mission was planned to last for two (Earth) years – which it’s just about reached. Assuming that JPL can get the APSS back on track next month (which seems likely), they have gotten good function from three of the four major instrument suites for those two years.

    The problem, of course, is the one that hasn’t quite worked out (HP3) was arguably the most important one. That said, it was also the highest risk one, too.

    InSight isn’t going to go down as among the most productive missions sent to Mars, but then, it was also one of the lowest cost ones, too, and I think that has to be part of the calculation. Hopefully, we’ve learned something important even from its failures.

  • Steve Page: My only comment is that we have sadly seen far too people like this individual, willing to risk their jobs to defy their corporate masters. Hopefully his stance will open the floodgates.

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