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.

Russia to build own space station; admits Zvezda is failing

Zvezda module of ISS
The Zvezda module, with aft section indicated
where the cracks have been found.

The new colonial movement: On April 12th, the 60th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is going to build its own independent space station, dubbed the Russian Orbital Space Station (ROSS), to replace its half of ISS.

More important however was this carefully worded admission:

In recent years, the ISS has begun to fall apart, with astronauts now frequently discovering cracks. Last week, it was revealed that Russian cosmonauts were still working on plugging a leak first noticed in 2019. The ongoing problems with the international station have prompted Moscow to begin creating a replacement.

What this state-run news article failed to mention is that the cracks and leaks have only been found in Russia’s twenty-year-old Zvezda module, not the rest of ISS. What ISS faces is the failure of the core section of Russia’s half of the station.

This public statement however is the first from Russia that clearly admits that the cracks in Zvezda are likely systemic stress fractures, and the patches to seal them are mere bandaids on a much more fundamental problem that is certain to get worse over time.

The decision to build its own new station is however not really surprising. The American goals in space have been shifting from promoting the government’s program to stimulating the American commercial aerospace industry. International cooperation is no longer the primary goal. The American foreign aid to Russia’s space program from the early days of ISS’s construction has long ago dried up, and Russia is also no longer getting any cash from the U.S. to fly American astronauts to ISS. The incentive to remain a partner has vanished.

If successful this will make three national stations in orbit, ISS, China’s, and Russia’s. In addition, we should start seeing the launch of several private commercial stations sometime this decade.

The competition is going to be glorious, with the results fast-paced and exciting. The moribund days of boring international cooperation where everything was squeezed into a single project, the International Space Station, appear over.


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    As it should be. Commercial entities can now do what once only government could. Government has served it’s roll. Now it’s time to get out of the way. The sooner the better.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Maybe this will cure the US Government’s tendency to want to “internationalize” everything, meaning letting Russia freeload, slowing us down in competing with China.

    Ps. SLSS!

  • David Eastman

    Over in the subscriber section at russianspaceweb, Anatoly has a more detailed than usual look at the plans of the moment. Honestly, they don’t look remotely achievable based on Russia’s performance of late. And there’s no way they can even try and do this at the same time as they follow through with their current lunar plans, so those probably go out the window.

    The station design isn’t that large, but continuing to do 4-5 launches a year in support of IIS from Baikonur, while finishing work on Vostochny and ramping up Soyuz and Angara launches there, building the first four modules to make the station operational, and doing all of that in nine years? I’ll be happy if they manage it, but also hugely surprised. And at this point I’m not sure ISS is going to last that long, either.

  • Commercial entities can now do what once only government could. Government has served it’s roll.

    The same progression that occurred, as the progression from Christopher Columbus to Jamestown.

  • wayne

    “The American Economy and the End of Laissez-Faire: 1870 to World War II”
    Lecture 2, “The Railroading of the American People”
    Murray N. Rothbard (1986)

    “The railroads experienced both enormous growth and enormous government intervention. Land was closed off from settlement, causing farmers to oppose the privileged railroads. Markets were skewed. Waste and inefficiencies were high. Graft and corruption were rampant. Only the Great Northern by James Hill was built with private monies. It became one of the few transcontinental railroads not to go bankrupt.”

  • Jeff Wright

    The Interstate replaced that though. Ray-you and I am on the same page. A single launch space station to go in its place. Here is an idea for the old module: have it as a vacuum research facility tethered below ISS. Charge to raise the station. Sever and build up power as the module drops. Tom Cruise gets this section and have a Progress follow it in-after a zero-g MMA match.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    At some point, hopefully sooner than later, we’re just going to have to go for the gold.

  • Jeff Wright

    That will likely still need government money. And libertarians and liberals alike are sabotaging infrastructure as we speak. Maybe Bezos could buy payloads for Starship if things turn out okay. may have an answer. Room temperature liquid glass. That, inflated and water glass might help. Lexan too.

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