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.

UAE astronaut flight to ISS tentatively scheduled for April

Russia has now tentatively scheduled the flight to ISS of the United Arab Emirates first astronaut.

The first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 5, 2019, and will return to Earth on April 16, 2019, the ISS launch schedule, shared with Sputnik, has shown. According to the document, an astronaut will fly to the ISS on board the Russian Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft.

It has not been determined yet if Hazza Mansouri or Sultan Nayadi will take part in the mission. Both astronauts have qualified for it and have begun their training in Russia earlier in September.

Though the goal of this mission by the UAE government is to encourage a private space industry in their country, the mission remains wholly a government creature. What has not been released is how much UAE is paying the Russians for their flight.

Had the launch of the U.S. commercial crew spacecraft not been slowed by NASA and had been operational, either SpaceX or Boeing could have competed for this business. Expect them to do so in the future.


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 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


  • wodun

    Would NASA have let them? Don’t the Russians get away with this because they use their space on the ISS? Or is this different than a tourist because another government is involved?

  • Kirk

    One advantage the Russians have is that a tourist can come up on one Soyuz and return a week or two later on the other Soyuz which had been on station for the previous six months, whereas with SpaceX and Boeing alternating crew rotation flights, any short-stay tourist would need to negotiate a flight up with one provider and a return flight with the other, each with their own specific space suit.

    woden, I don’t know how receptive NASA would be to the idea of a tourist hanging out in the USOS portion of the ISS. Perhaps they’d need to pay the Russians to hang out in the ROS even if they rode on US capsules.

  • wodun

    It could be that for tourists and other customers getting rides to the ISS via SpaceX and Boeing that they will stay on a commercial module attached to the station. NASA has talked about it. I don’t recall if this was in all cases but the commercial module was to be later detached after proving itself and then become part of an independent space station. Considering how long it takes with Commercial Crew and getting projects like BEAM, a commercial module is many years off.

    It would probably be better to launch their own facility and demonstrate its fitness on their own schedule and then sell one to NASA for the ISS or just lease NASA space on the new station. It would be a great way to compete for being a Gateway provider too. Do you go with the company promising to build something or the one with something already in orbit?

    Perhaps with stations other than ISS, the transportation issues would work themselves out, assuming the capsules have the ability to travel.

  • Edward

    “Our vision to develop the national space sector, which began 12 years ago, is beginning to bear fruit,”

    Although Robert describes it as being similar to a tourist mission, that only describes the length of the mission. The UAE envisions actual working, productive astronauts. This is not the first short term mission to the ISS, just the first UAE one.

    The intention is that UAE astronauts would carry out long term scientific research lasting many months on the ISS.

    This first mission is short term. So far I have not heard what science this astronaut is intended to carry out on this mission.

    Astronaut time and research time on the space station is allocated to space agencies according to how much money or resources (such as modules or robotics) that they contribute.

    The UAE has not contributed much to the ISS, so they do not rate a long term mission.

    My expectation is that the UAE’s main mission is to gain experience at sending astronauts into space so that when alternative space stations are available, such as Bigelow habitats, then they will be in a good position to lease or buy one for their own use and longer stays with more science.

    So far, the U. S. and Russians (Soviets) have been the gatekeepers for other nations to send their own astronauts to space. Soon this will change, and I expect that several nations will advance their own manned space programs. It will just be that they will not depend upon reluctant governments but upon eager commercial enterprises to provide access with launchers and habitats.

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 *