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.

Starship prototype #20 completes another static fire launchpad test

Capitalism in space: Despite being blocked by the federal government bureauceacy from launching its Starship/Superheavy rocket on its first orbital flight, SpaceX yesterday successfully completed another static fire launchpad test of the 20th prototype of Starship.

It appears that this was the second static fire test that used all six of prototypes’s Raptor engines.

Meanwhile, Superheavy prototype #4 sits on the orbital launchpad, where similar static fire tests were expected but have not yet occurred. Either SpaceX engineers found they needed to additional revisions of the prototype before attempted such a test, which could fire as many as 29 Raptor engines at once, or the company has decided to hold back its testing because the FAA has not yet approved the environmental reassessment for the Boca Chica launch site. Firing the engines on Superheavy before that approval could be used by SpaceX’s environmental enemies as a public relations weapon to help kill the approval entirely.

Personally I think the answer is the former. It is not Elon Musk’s way to cower in fear of others. In fact, he is more likely to push forward, knowing that the publicity from a successful Superheavy static fire test will almost certainly be mostly positive and enthusiastic, thus helping to force politicians to force the bureaucracy to sign off its approval.


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  • Captain Emeritus

    With the “upgraded” Raptor engines coming on line, could a fully fueled Starship ever be able to achieve, single stage to orbit, albeit with little or no cargo?
    i.e. to deliver spacemen to the I.S.S. and maybe a couple of tons of supplies like the cargo dragon?
    Asking for a friend…
    Happy New Year to all.

  • Mike a

    Any word on where the oil rigs are in the construction phase?
    I’d love to see him just move his orbital test launch out on a rig as a big finger to the eye of the regulators holding back progress.
    Won’t happen obviously, but I’d love to see it just for the explosion of heads that would follow.

  • Questioner

    The reality loving, sometimes a bit harsh Dr. Jeff Bell was a great man. Everything he said about the crazy goal of colonizing Mars in this SpaceShow episode still applies – after more than 5 years – unchanged. Only the Mars and Musk madness has widened even more considerably among the fanboys. In my view, it is inevitable that the delusional Mars and Musk bubble will finally burst.

    Enjoy this show.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “Everything he said about the crazy goal of colonizing Mars in this SpaceShow episode still applies – after more than 5 years – unchanged.

    Hah! Some of it didn’t even apply at the time.

    His example of the sun going into its red giant phase was absurd, and we know that he knows better. SpaceX succeeded in achievements that Dr. Bell and his sensible engineer friends had thought impossible. We lack evidence of shortened lifespan in free fall, such as on the ISS, and there is no evidence that people could not live long under 0.38 G environment; extrapolation of a hypothesis is not adequate evidence, and he should know this. It is why we do actual experiments under actual conditions. Considering that the Raptor engine has worked during flight testing, Dr. Bell is wrong again. He may dislike that the Space Shuttle and SpaceX push their engines beyond the usual limits, but that does not mean that they won’t work at those levels. Even NASA’s Perseverance Rover has shown that we can create the chemicals we need, in situ, and Bell thought this was just too much chemistry for we mere humans to be able to do.

    Bell did not know his topic at all. He implied that it was bad that Musk would not use the usual Hohmann Transfer Orbit, thinking it would require too much fuel, but NASA and the other nations sending Mars probes haven’t used this orbit for decades, if they ever did. Mars probes routinely take six and a half months rather than the eight and a half that the Hohmann orbit takes. If he knew his topic then he would have known this.

    Perhaps Dr. Bell was at his best when he was at a loss for any idea why we should colonize Mars, but when David Livingston suggested that maybe a caller could give a reason Bell then said that he probably would have heard that reason before. Talk about having it both ways, he implied that no reason could possibly be worthy of his consideration. “Go ahead, you crazies, try to convince me that Mars is worthy of the equivalent of an Antarctic winter-over.”

    Dr. Bell also claimed that rockets cannot use composites the way that Rocket Lab is planning to use them on Neutron. In fact, he said that they cannot work the way they have been working on Falcon 9 ever since that podcast, about a hundred Falcon launches ago. More relevantly, Starship has since been changed from a composite material to steel, so this is yet another claim that does not apply. Oh, I forgot to mention that when there is a design change, it is a good thing, not the bad that Bell said it was. Dr.Bell may have sounded good at the time, but time has not been kind to Bell’s interview. What little he said that seemed to apply five years ago does not apply anymore. Bell is a true disbeliever. It was hard to listen to his incredible ignorance on the topic. What a waste of two hours. What a waste to spend additional time to explain this to you, Questioner, since you know so little, yourself, that you were willing to use Bell’s uninformed interview in an attempt to make your poorly thought out point.

    Only the Mars and Musk madness has widened even more considerably among the fanboys.

    Now that Starship has demonstrated that Raptor works, that Starship can fly, and that it can land, it seems that the fanboys may be justified in their enthusiasm. Even NASA thinks that Starship can land on the Moon, so is NASA also considered a fanboy?

    It seems that between Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Sierra Space, and SpaceX new advancements in rocketry are being made again, but advancements at the traditional launch companies have been incremental in the past four or five decades.

    Isn’t it interesting that when NASA proposed going to Mars it was not seen as a crazy goal, madness, delusional, or a bubble? However, it is all those things to Musk haters, but only because they hate Musk and his annoying “pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-moral chatter” (Ref: ).

    What Musk haters miss, however, is that Musk is not the only one who succeeds. Blue Origin was first to propulsively land a reusable booster. Orbital Sciences also succeeded in taking supplies and equipment to the ISS, at a time when the “sensible engineers” thought it was too difficult for commercial companies to do. What had once been impossible is now being done. If your concern is that there is no business market for putting man on Mars or for a Martian colony, then you do not need to worry about that, only SpaceX’s investors need to worry about that, not the taxpayers. A failed Martian colony would not be history’s first failed colony, but nothing is stopping anyone else from trying again, just as no one prevented the colonization of most of the Earth.

    In my view, it is inevitable that the delusional Mars and Musk bubble will finally burst.

    Do you have a predicted time for this burst, or perhaps an impetus for the burst?

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