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.

Russian to fly on Orion?

In negotiations between NASA and Roscosmos on their hoped-for partnership to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), it has been proposed that when SLS carries Orion and the platform’s Russian airlock to lunar orbit a Russian will go as well.

“Within the framework of talks, draft plans of future manned missions to the lunar stations have been made. Among other issues, the possibility to send one Russian cosmonaut as part of the crew of the Orion spacecraft that will drag the Russian airlock module to the moon is on the agenda. The Russian cosmonaut will have to ensure the integration of the module with the station,” the source said.

A source in Russia’s Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) that would produce the module confirmed this information to Sputnik, saying that four manned missions were expected to be sent to the station and the Russian cosmonaut should accompany the Russian-made module during its transportation to the Earth satellite.

This all sounds so wonderful. Too bad it is so unconnected with reality. Congress has yet to provide any funds for LOP-G. At the moment, SLS/Orion is only funded through its first manned mission.

At the same time, I am getting the feeling that both NASA and Congress expect SLS/Orion’s $4 billion-plus annual budget that it has gotten since the program started in the late 2000s will simply continue, giving them the money to build this Potemkin Village in orbit around the Moon while funding the Russian contributions.

That’s what happened with ISS. The U.S. footed most of the bills for the Russian portion of ISS, and the Russians are now hoping we will do the same for LOP-G. Sadly, I also expect our corrupt Congress will go along, focused as they are in only distributing pork to local districts while encouraging a global international village having nothing to do with American interests. They see LOP-G not as exploring space, but as a jobs program, both here in the U.S. and in Russia.

And a jobs program is exactly what it is. Just like it will take SLS/Orion almost two decades to complete its first manned launch, LOP-G will likely not get anything built in orbit around the Moon for more than a decade. Don’t expect anything substantial assembled in lunar orbit before the mid-2030s, at the earliest.

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  • Localfluff

    NASA could exchange imaginary seats on the Orion in for free seats now on the Soyuz!
    I think that SLS, Orion and the LOP-G should be donated to the North Korea as part of a peace deal.

  • wodun

    I put up a comment last night on another post but looks like it disappeared.

    I was thinking there would be some big changes to the LOP-G because NASA is doing a RFP for Earth to Lunar surface services. The RFP is for rovers but it is noteworthy that there is no stop off at a LOP-G. I thought this might signal some changes to the LOP-G but now I think it means there is a dual track for the Moon and Mars.

    From my limited understanding, the LOP-G provides limited access to the Moon because of its orbit but that orbit was chosen for staging Mars missions.

    It wouldn’t be surprising for it to take a decade or more to be constructed because everything regarding space has long lead times. The LOP-G isn’t going to be built by NASA designing and launching their own segments but by companies demonstrating their products and then NASA deciding which one is best and paying a fixed price.

    There is a lot of fud out there and things are confusing because Trump said we are going back to the Moon. But looking at these new programs, it looks like NASA isn’t locked into a single destination and will be working toward the Moon and Mars. It is a dual track with one destination being more open to commerce and the other more focused on the government.

    Whether or not LOP-G happens or if it would even achieve its goals if it did happen, who can say? What is encouraging though is what appears to be a serious series of lunar prospecting missions through public/private partnerships that will send many (or at least more than one) rovers to the lunar surface.

    A lot of people have said, “If you want to go to the Moon, go to the Moon.” But they always ignore the initial steps. You don’t just plop down a lunar village. Prospecting needs to be done first. This will take some time too but it will be much faster with multiple rovers that are not solely controlled by NASA or academic researches, who might very well be hostile to a McDonald’s or a mine on the Moon.

  • wodun

    As to the question of Russians to fly on Orion, they will be flying on whatever vehicles they can access. Unless their system changes, they will take advantage of the services other countries/companies can provide in order to stay in the game.

  • wodun

    Hmm, comment disappeared.

    Russians will be flying on any vehicle they can access. It is doubtful they will stick to their domestic launch options when it will be cheaper to fly thanks to another company or country. The important thing isn’t how one gets to space but what one does there.

  • Wodun: Your comment caused me to look in the comment spam folder, and I discovered almost 40 comments from regular readers that had been put there. Some looked like they had been posted, than pulled and put into spam, something I did not do.

    Others looked like people posted the same comment multiple times because their first attempts did not appear. Please do not do this. Instead, contact me directly and let me know there is an issue. You can find my email address at the bottom of the “About” page.

    Regardless, I will contact my web guy at Amixa and let him know their might be a problem with the spam filter.

  • wodun

    I thought there might have been a commenting curfew imposed against us night owls =p

  • Localfluff

    @wodun There is never night, nor is there day, in space.

  • wayne

    same thing happened yesterday with 2-3 comments from me. (and just now, in a different thread)

    Mr. Z. is caving today, but I’ll drop him an email.

  • Kirk

    Localfluff> There is never night, nor is there day, in space.

    Michael Chambers: What time is it?
    Kanamit: There is no time in space. This is to say there is no chronology that can be calibrated.
    Michael Chambers: I said what time is it, what time is it on earth? Can you tell me that without an exercise in euclidean geometry? Now, just tell me what time it is on earth.
    Kanamit: On earth it would be 12:00 noon.

    — The Twilight Zone “To Serve Man” (1962)

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