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.

Webb: Course correction burn and main antenna deployment both a success

Over the weekend engineers for the James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed a course correction burn that put the telescope on route to is planned location a million miles from Earth.

They also successfully deployed the telescope’s main antenna.

Other steps completed on Webb’s first full day in space included the switch-on of temperature sensors and strain gauges on the telescope, used for monitoring Webb’s thermal and structural parameters, NASA said. The antenna release and first mid-course correction burn set the stage for the next step of Webb’s post-launch commissioning — the deployment and tensioning of the observatory’s tennis court-sized sunshield.

These next steps are likely the most risky part of the telescope’s deployment, as it involves the most moving parts and is the most complex. While similar such unfoldings have been done successfully many times before, they have also been the very prone to failure.

The sunshield must work however for Webb to operate. As an infrared telescope, it essentially detects heat, and if it is not well shielded from sunlight its images will be fogged.

The deployment is presently set to begin tomorrow.


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  • Col Beausabre

    Have faith, there’s still plenty of time for disaster

    And in other news, the Chinese have accused Musk of either putting up space junk and/or killer satellites to endanger their space station

  • Sayomara`

    I’m a bit surprised Nasa didn’t launch any CubeSats along with Webb to keep an outside eye on the mission like the Dart mission did or the last few mars missions have done. I guess in theory you could always do it later. But another set of eyes on this mission that can provide information about the outside of the craft seems at least somewhat useful.

  • John

    Good to hear. As long as information is forthcoming, Webb is a-OK.

  • Jeff Wright

    Where is the upper stage? Adrift?

  • Localfluff

    They have lots of sensors so they know exactly what is happening during each deployment. Do you need a camera in your pocket when you pick up your keys with your fingers?

  • sayomara


    No I don’t but I also didn’t send enough money to build an Aircraft carrier on my keys either =)

    I think it would give good PR just be able to put a video online showing the telescope unfolding.

  • Questioner

    LocalFluff and sayomara:

    They did without these cameras because they were afraid that the camera’s heat production would interfere with the scientific IR images of the telescope.

  • Localfluff

    Or in worst case, NOT so good PR… :-D

    Also, they want to keep it simple (HAHAHAA!) What if the camera screws up their electrics or software? Or if the cubesat hits the telescope? Have you heard of the fire that was caused by a battery? Not so unusual these days. But in this case it was the BATTERY IN THE SMOKE ALARM that caused the fire!

    The Decadal Survey published earlier this year (I must remind myself to read it) is said to conclude that they should never ever do something like JWST again. KISS will be the acronym for the next big telescope. JWST takes 6 months to cool down. The same is true for most astronomers! JWST is an occupational hazard for them.

  • Sayomara

    “Or in worst case, NOT so good PR… :-D”
    @Localfluff I think you figured it out right there. If your going to mess up at least there isn’t a video of the whole thing failing.

    @questioner what I was suggesting is a cubstat with camera on it to watch JWST from a distance honestly a few km away or more. The optics on that are fairly straightforward. Since it not part on the telescope I’m not sure how that would be a heat issue.

  • Edward

    The course correction that is the topic of this post would have complicated the cubesat’s ability to take these photographs. The cubesat would also have to make the same course correction in order to stay with the telescope. The camera suggestion rejected by NASA was for cameras onboard Webb.

  • Questioner

    Launch Pad Astronomy: “How James Webb’s Deployments MUST Work”

  • Max

    I like the idea of miniature camera, say a dozen of them connected to the sun side near the communication antenna. They can be released on command during the lifetime of the array.
    Once released, they can check for damage on the sun shield as they drift towards the edge to get a view of the telescope from the distant side. With simple maneuvering capabilities like compressed gas, it could do much more during a failure. They also can be launched towards the Lagrange point to inspect other experiments before they lose power.

    We live in a visual world, sometimes it’s necessary to feed the masses what they crave.
    I was hoping for a high powered optical telescope in tandem with the web that will point in the same direction as the web for confirmation of object that they’re looking at. Another lost opportunity.

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