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.

Russians launch military satellite

Using a Soyuz-2 rocket the Russians today successfully launched a classified military satellite from its spaceport in Plesetsk.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

26 China
18 Russia
11 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 26 to 23.

These numbers will change again later today if Arianespace successfully launches two communications satellites. They have been trying to launch now for three days, but minor technical problems and weather have stymied them.

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:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


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
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


  • Scott M.

    Bob, sorry if this is off-topic but there’s a fascinating article by Eric Berger at Ars. Virgin Galactic is looking towards doing long-distance suborbital travel.

    They’re not gonna make it with that engine, that’s all I have to say.

  • Scott M: In the last three years I have generally made it a policy to ignore any story about Virgin Galactic that touts anything the company “might” do. So far, none of those “mights” have come true, and have instead generally been hype that means nothing.

    The same here. The stock is falling, so the CEO is trying to hype the company to pump up the stock value. Until they actually begin flying believe nothing.

  • Edward

    I wouldn’t put much into this Virgin Galactic “announcement” either. They used the words “suggested” and “may” rather than announcing that they were beginning actual development on such an endeavor. If they were starting development then that would be news. Not exciting news, but news. As it is, they only presented a concept without even a Power Point design. SpaceX, at least, is developing a Starship that could potentially perform the same service, and they even proposed fairly low launch prices.

    Not all attempts at the space launch business are successful. Armadillo and Kistler seemed promising, but where are they now? XCOR had some of us excited for a while, but they are gone, too. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin had us excited a decade ago, too, but they just do not seem eager to begin actual revenue flights. So far, their business model looks more like one that spends the investor’s money than one that produces a service.

    Some of us remember the late 1990s, when there were plenty of internet-startups that did the same thing — spent the investor’s money on what turned out to be “vaporware.” One of my brothers worked for a few and refers to each one in terms such as “that was six failed internet startups ago.” He has had a stable IT job for two decades, now, not at an internet company.

    I sure hope that Blue Origin gets its BE-4 engine out the door, for ULA’s sake.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *