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.

SpaceX launches NASA X-ray telescope

Capitalism in space: SpaceX early this morning successfully launched NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), a small X-ray telescope designed to black holes and neutron stars.

The first stage, making its fifth flight, successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

This launch, SpaceX’s 28th for 2021, extends once again the company’s all time record for the most launches in a year by a private company.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

46 China
28 SpaceX
21 Russia
6 Europe (Arianespace)
5 Rocket Lab

China’s lead over the U.S, in the national rankings has now shrunk to 46 to 45. The launch was the 121st in 2021, making this year tied as the seventh most active year in the history of space, a ranking that is sure to go up before the end of the year.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

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.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


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


If Patreon or Paypal don'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

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • Ray Van Dune

    I listened to the NASASpaceflight commentary on the launch, and during a wind shear hold, they mentioned that SpaceX has demonstrated all the possible re-use cases for the F9/FH boosters:
    1. Std F9 re-flown as FH side booster
    2. FH side booster re-flown as std F9
    3. FH core booster re-flown as std F9

    FH core booster cannot be replaced by Std F9 booster or by FH side booster, due to special strengthening used in FH core design. In other words, it takes a specially-strengthened booster to handle the center position in the FH! Still a pretty impressive demonstration of manufacturing standardization and resultant use flexibility.

  • Jeff Wright

    This makes me wonder how hard it would be for a five core Falcon superheavy to ease Raptor production woes. Most of the strengthening is done.

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 *