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.

Reviewing the development of Starship/Super Heavy

Link here. This five-part article is a detailed review of SpaceX’s development of its new completely reusable heavy-lift rocket, with Super Heavy being the first stage booster and Starship being the orbital upper stage capable of returning to Earth, landing vertically, and being reused.

From the article’s conclusion:

The Starship program is unique and one of the most ambitious in the history of rocketry. The design has now gone through at least twelve known versions and four different names!

Its first version was a single or triple-core rocket back in 2013, which has evolved into the single-core stainless steel Starship design under construction today. Even as the design’s size has fluctuated dramatically, its repertoire of missions and roles has expanded.

It started out as a rocket meant to colonize Mars but now is envisioned as an all-purpose carrier rocket to replace the Falcon 9 rocket family. It is expected to launch satellites into Earth orbit, fly people point-to-point on Earth, ferry cargo and crew to and from the Moon, in addition to its original role as a Mars colonization vehicle.

Two significant points: First, SpaceX as a company has shown itself remarkably capable of shifting design and development tracks, on a dime, if it realized there was a better way to do things. Second, the company has also smartly rethought this big rocket’s reason for existing. In the beginning they focused on Musk’s goal of getting to Mars. That concept however had few if no customers, and therefore have little chance of producing profits. Overtime the company adjusted their design goals to expand the rocket’s purposes so that its capabilities would serve as many customers as possible.

The result is a useful product that still could take people to Mars.


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  • Phill O

    Bob: Are you, or is it NASA doing the five part series?

  • Phill O: It seems to me you should click on the link that I provided.

  • geoffc

    @phill O: It is a (NSF) article, that has a 5 page breakup. Not the real NASA, the good NASASpaceflight. These guys have a web cam for launches and events in Florida and Boca Chica.

    Great forums there as well. .

  • Phill O

    Thanks folk! Missed it on the link! Will look into new glasses!

  • Skunk Bucket

    I had frankly forgotten just how many iterations there were in the gestation of the Big Freakin’ Rocket. It’s amazing to see just how agile an organization can be when it’s not saddled with a ton of bureaucracy. Thanks for the link.

  • Jay

    I agree with Skunk Bucket, that is a great article. The number of versions to the design and switching over to stainless steel is amazing, especially this sentence from the article “…301 series stainless steel: it handled structural stress better than carbon fiber, was far more heat tolerant (788 C vs. 250 C), cost $3 a kilogram versus $135 for carbon fiber, does not have carbon fiber’s 35% scrap rate, was easier to work with, remained ductile at cryogenic temperatures unlike most steels, and even had its strength boosted by 50% at those temperatures, limiting the mass difference.”
    I have had a few design projects in which I used 301 and 304 stainless steel. Great against corrosion and had to compromise for the electrical-side for resistance, it is a great alloy, but a bit of a pain to machine (send it to a machinist).

  • Ray Van Dune

    Phill O’s comment is understandable. I have commented here before that the links on the site are difficult to find, relying only on font color differences that are difficult for my aging eyes to perceive.

  • Ray Van Dune: Did you try to change the color of unvisited links using your browser? In both Firefox and Seamonkey you can easily set that color to anything you want. Changing it to a darker yellow for example will certainly help for it to stand out.

    This is the easiest solution, and then it would apply for you on all websites.

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.

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