Route to Balanced Rock

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.

Route to Balanced Rock on Mars

The image above is a panorama I have created from the raw images taken by Curiosity’s left navigation camera today, using this image for the left half and this image for the right half. They show the terrain in front of the rover, including the balanced rock on the horizon, indicated by the arrow.

I have no idea what route the science team plans, but looking at all of the images, as well as their desire to get a closer look at the rock, I suspect they will head up to the left on the smoother ground, aiming almost directly at the balanced rock. I also suspect that they will eventually veer right before getting to the rock, since the rover can’t go over the rough terrain in that area. Stay tuned to find out.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will 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:

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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
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  • Wayne

    Mr Z– what software do you use for image manipulation?

  • DJN

    something running in Linux no doubt.

  • I use the Gimp, which is cross platform and will work on both Windows, Apple, and Linux machines. It is as capable as Photoshop, and free.

  • Localfluff

    Those vertically exposed layered rocks should reveal some geological history. That’s the stuff Curiosity was designed to investigate with its arm and its laser. Now we’re getting somewhere. The warranty has expired, the wheels are wearing down and we’ve just had a safety mode, I hope they manage to get close enough to those rock layers soon.

    Anyway, they can’t resist pushing that rock over with the arm. Imagine the destiny. Heard from passing aliens long ago but not far away:
    -Maybe Earth develops life and a civilization that sends a rover there to push it over 4 billion years from now?
    -Yeah, sure, weirdo!

    I don’t see much about this rock on other blogs and space news sites. It is surely destroying Emily Lakdawalla’s vacation unless she is completely disconnected. Astronomers are on summer vacation. They never really left student life, you know. Other branches of the natural sciences have close contact with industries in the real world and social sciences do too, and humaniora with mass media and publishing. But the astronomers are for themselves and now they are on their 10 week summer break.

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