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 unfurling of Webb’s sun shield begins

Engineers have begun the multi-day unfurling and deployment of the sun shield on the James Webb Space Telescope.

The first step is to deploy two booms on each side of the telescope that draw the shield itself outward.

The deployment of the first boom was held up several hours to give engineers time to make sure the protective covers had, in fact, rolled off to the side of the sunshade pallets as required.

“Switches that should have indicated that the cover rolled up did not trigger when they were supposed to,” NASA said in a blog post. “However, secondary and tertiary sources offered confirmation that it had.”

“The deployment of the five telescoping segments of the motor-driven mid-boom began around 1:30 p.m., and the arm extended smoothly until it reached full deployment,” NASA said.

Engineers then sent commands to deploy the second sunshade boom, which extended smoothly and locked in place at 10:13 p.m., finally giving Webb its iconic kite-like shape.

Next the shield has to be tightened in place, which will also separate and tighten in place the shield’s five layers. According to the schedule, the four layers will be tensioned today, with the fifth tomorrow.

The step-by-step deployment is outlined in detail here, and updates to the most recently completed step after it is finished.


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  • Frank Solomon

    Bob, if possible, I’d like to see a time zone added to the date / time-stamps at the upper left of your posts, and the post comments. This might help gauge things in time. For example, this post says 5:18 PM, the embedded quote from CBS News has its own 8:25 PM time stamp, and that quote says sunshade boom lock-in happened at 10:13 PM. Carefully reading the CBS News article, I saw its 12-31-21 date. This might not matter so much ordinarily, but JWST has a high event-density, and at least for me, it becomes difficult to build an accurate picture of the latest JWST developments, across the sources. I definitely acknowledge that this issue seems to happen frequently across JWST reporting generally, not just BtB.


  • Andrew_W

    On the site you link to “sunshield layer tensioning” : “rescheduled”.

    Anyone know why the delay?

  • Andrew_W: It appears they decided to simply take the day off after a week of continuous work. It is Sunday after all.

  • It also appears that they wanted the extra time to get the telescope’s power system fully charged.

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