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.

The flaking and cracked floor of a Martian crater

The flaking and cracked floor of a Martian crater
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on April 1, 2021 by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows the central portion of the floor of an unnamed 5-mile-wide crater in northeast corner of Hellas Basin, the deepest large depression on Mars.

The latitude is 33 degrees south, where many glacier features have been identified, especially inside craters.

In this case, the cracked and flaked surface of this crater floor suggests what geologists call exfoliation, “the breaking off of thin concentric shells, sheets, scales, plates, and so on.” On Earth exfoliation generally refers to an erosion process seen on rock faces, though you can see it on other types of materials.

In this Martian crater we appear to be seeing the exfoliation of different ice layers, sublimating away at different rates as they are exposed to the Sun. The layers probably suggest different periods on Mars when snow was falling here, causing the glaciers to grow. The sublimation we see now suggest periods when this region was warmer and the ice was shrinking. Whether we are in such a period now is not yet determined by scientists.

Either way, the photo suggests at least two such cycles, though if we could drill down into this material we would likely find evidence of many more.

Below the fold is a global map of Mars, showing the location of this crater with a red cross in Hellas. The regions surrounded by white borders are areas where many glacial features have been found.

Click for high resolution clean version.

As you can see, this crater is both outside a nearby glacial region to the east, and also sits just south of the 30 degree latitude line north of which no such glacial features have so far been found. This feature thus either illustrates the process of glacial sublimation, or it is showing us material that is not glacial but possibly volcanic.

To my eye the features in this crater are too similar to other glacial features dubbed concentric crater fill and located throughout the 30 to 60 degree mid-latitude bands. If you look at the full image, showing the crater’s rim and most of the rest of the crater floor, you will see what I mean, especially if you compare this crater with other glacial-filled craters.


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