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.

Virgin Galactic cancels its announced November suborbital flight

Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic announced yesterday that it has canceled its announced November suborbital flight, claiming the cause were new COVID-19 guidelines imposed by the New Mexico Department of Health.

The flight had been scheduled for the November 19-23 time period. It had been announced with the typical hype that comes from Richard Branson.

Personally, I don’t believe Branson or Virgin Galactic as to the cause of this flight cancellation. I think they either never intended to fly, or have known for some time that new technical problems would prevent its launch as scheduled. I think they hyped the launch despite this, which conveniently pumped up the stock price at a time Branson was selling stock. They now announce the cancellation, the stock drops, but Branson has already pocketed his profits.

The timing of this announcement is also most ironic, as it occurred on the same day SpaceX docked four astronauts on ISS. Branson’s company began building its suborbital spacecraft in 2004, promising that it would soon fly hundreds, even thousands of private passengers into space. Sixteen years later it has never flown one passenger, and very few manned test flights. In the interim SpaceX built its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, and is now launching passengers to orbit, with its first entirely private launch scheduled less than a year from now.

The comparison is quite stark. Why anyone would invest real money in this fake company at this point baffles me.


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  • Chris Lopes

    Disappointing, but not unexpected. They had a head start in technology (Rutan had just built an operational suborbital spacecraft) and threw it away. It’s clear now that Branson had no intention of pursuing this thing to the end. It’s all been an elaborate con game.

  • pzatchok

    I would reclassify their craft as a high altitude aircraft and never report on them again.

    They are not serious about spaceflight and never have been.

    He had the cash to employ a thousand people to manufacture and fly anything to space but the whole time they couldn’t keep more than a 200 employed at a single time. And for most of the time less then a 100 including janitors and security.

    Compare this to Space X.

  • pzatchok: You remind me of the amount of money invested in Virgin Galactic, which based on reports probably exceeds a billion, excluding the money raised recently in stock sales. For this they accomplished practically nothing over 16 years.

    SpaceX has raised about $2 billion for Starship. For this they will have a reusable Saturn 5 rocket, likely in less than five years.

    The comparison, as you note, is quite revealing.

  • Ray Van Dune

    The smell from Blue Origin (appropriately abbreviated as “BO”) is just about as bad. We space fans had better hope that Elon Musk recovers from Covid as spectacularly as did President Trump!

  • Chris Lopes

    @Ray Van Dune

    At least BO is just playing with Bezos’ money. They also have a shot at flying something, eventually.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Burt Rutan is a talented, somewhat quirky, aircraft designer. Spaceship One was a specific answer to the X-Prize competition which it won.
    However, note it was retired right after that. It never flew the 3 people it was capable of carrying. I think the whole team somewhat frightened themselves. Badly.

    Branson backed the wrong horse with the hybrid rocket motor. Liquid rockets is a mature technology nowadays and going to the XCor folks a few hangars down would have been a good move.
    Another thing: Spaceships don’t need wings. They complicate matters greatly and you end up designing an airplane AND a spacecraft with the problems of both. Musk has seen this and the Starship has no wings just drag flaps/dragerons/elonerons whatever you want to call them. Bad enough but I think possibly no other way around the problem. They also help by the high drag surface area keeping more of the heating at high altitude on atmosphere entry. Starship IS NOT an airplane.

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