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 telescope reaches launchpad on Ariane 5 + how to watch launch

The James Webb Space Telescope, stacked on top of Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket, has finally reached its launchpad in French Guiana after twenty years of development costing 20 times its original budget.

The launch itself is now scheduled for December 25, 2021 at 7:20 am (Eastern). It will be live streamed by both NASA (in English) and Arianespace (with options in English, French, or Spanish).

I have embedded below NASA’s feed. As always, expect NASA to pump you with lots of propaganda during its live stream.

When all is said and done, Webb has the chance to show us things about the universe we’ve never seen before. Optimized for deep space cosmology, it will provide us a window into the earliest moments of the universe’s existence. And is infrared capabilities will allow it to peer into many nearer places obscured by dust with a resolution unmatched by previous telescopes.

Keep your fingers crossed all goes as planned.


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  • Questioner

    Mr. Z .:

    What do you mean? What specific political influences have NASA evolved into this left-wing political propaganda machine over the years?

    By the way, we won’t let the fun at the start be spoiled? Another question for you: How big is ESA’s share of the 10 billion dollar development costs? Has it stayed with the 0.3 billion start-up fee? That would be just 3% and a very good deal for ESA. Merry Christmas!

  • Questioner: As far as I know, the ESA has spent no money developing Webb. It however is paying for the launch entirely. That gives its astronomers a guaranteed portion of telescope observing time, the percentage of which I cannot remember at this moment. For Hubble, it was 15%. I suspect it is about the same for Webb.

    And Merry Christmas to you too!

  • Questioner

    Correction: replace “start-up” by “launch”

  • Jay

    Yes, ESA is paying for the Ariane 5.. ESA did contribute some money for the development, but I don’t know if that was the money to pay for the instruments they made for Webb. They built the Near Infrared Spectrograph and contributed to the Mid Infrared Instrument, even though that was led by the University of Arizona. Canada (CSA) contributed the FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) as well. Reading up on the JWST, to me it looks like University of Arizona really was the tech lead on this project.
    It has been my observation that ESA never likes to pay for something outside of their program. They usually trade for services or build some part of a project to get a percentage of use and access to the research.

    I hope all goes well with the launch.

    Merry Christmas guys.

  • Jay: Ah yes, I stand corrected. I forgot about the science instruments that Europe has built.

  • Andrew_W

    It’s great that the space telescope to that got approval when I was a child is finally getting launched. (Perhaps I exaggerate, bottle of bubbly on Xmas day) :-)

  • Richard M

    ESA and CSA are also providing some support ops.

    Overall, granted, NASA is paying 90% of the bill, however you cut it. But European and Canadian contributions are not insignificant. Undoubtedly it bought JWST some political protection on the Hill, and some goodwill on future ESA projects.

    Now we just need it to work.

  • Localfluff

    Even if JWST is technical success (which I think it will be) it is a catastrophic management failure. There should be a police investigation because the suspicion of criminal corruption is inescapable. It is hard to believe that NASA and Northrup-Grumman are THIS completely incompetent.

    IXPE was launched recently without any fanfare. It will be the first observatory for polarized x-rays. It will be able to image magnetic fields. We could’ve had a couple of such missions every year for the last two decades, instead of JWST. And what about heliophysics? The Sun is important and interesting. It is a star nearby, and stars are pretty important in astrophysics. Solar observatories should be the big priority, but it isn’t. JWST has cost more than all heliophysics space missions ever.

  • wayne

    “James Webb Space Telescope will fail”
    Allan Smith (October 2021)

    “A remix of NASA hero video highlighting why JWST is bound to fail…”

  • wayne

    “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
    A Jam Handy Production / Max Fleischer (1948)

  • wayne

    ….while we’re waiting…..

    “STS-31 – Hubble Space Telescope Launch
    Shuttle Discovery, multiple cameras”
    (April 1990)

  • Questioner

    Maybe Mr. Z. can write a little story of the government failure in connection with the James Webb Telescope for this blog.

    One thing must not be forgotten – despite the cheers that will soon follow the successful start: The 10 billion dollar costs (whether as taxes or as national debt generated from nothing) are borne by the American citizen. He wasn’t asked and couldn’t defend himself. The money was forced from him – ultimately under threat of imprisonment and by having a gun ready – by the state and its monopoly on the use of force.

  • Scott M.

    I have all my fingers AND toes crossed for this launch and deployment!

  • Max

    Good to hear from you Localfluff, Sweden has been in the news a lot lately.

    James Webb telescope has been delayed so many times, it’s hard to believe it is finally happening. Hope everything goes well, the world can use some good news for a change.

    If it is delayed for some reason, here is an hour and 40 minute interview with Elon musk by the Babylon Bee last Sunday.

    A rambling conversation starting with his early life, his successes and near failures, Elizabeth Warren (alias Senator Karen), he’s selling of stock and why. And his taxes.
    The government is a monopoly… It does not have a compelling reason to be efficient. Max Q for starship, his thoughts on environmentalism, global warming, Peak oil and running out of energy. (Big disappointment for me, he’s ignorant of so much data)
    NeuroLink explained.
    And a practical view of religion.

  • Questioner

    For those tired of the politically correct propaganda of the government and a massive female preponderance in the presentation, you can use this link for the launch show:

  • sippin_bourbon


    Having a daughter who has a degree in Science and is getting started in her life after getting her education, I have no issue with a female presence in the presentations.

    Complaining about it is on the same level as complaining about a shirt someone might wear.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Watched the launch. So far, uneventful and smooth. This is good.

    I have read all the stories about all the single points of failure in the engineering of this observatory. So much can happen between now and the arrival at L2.

  • Questioner


    It is all a question of balance sheet, and this has long been abandoned on this issue. The impression always arises even more over time that other than technical reasons are decisive as to why female staff are so massively supported. Left ideological reasons for enforced equalization.

    Good that this launch was successful. Solar panel are already deployed.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I spent a traditional English Christmas lunch time with my kids in the local social club, watching the launch on my telephone. Christmas tunes playing and all in great humour.
    Now it’s back to my parents for traditional Christmas dinner.
    Well done all involved in getting Webb on its way, fingers crossed for the rest!
    And a very merry Christmas to all there over the pond! ( And back in Sweden Localfluff!)

  • Edward

    Localfluff wrote: “There should be a police investigation because the suspicion of criminal corruption is inescapable. It is hard to believe that NASA and Northrup-Grumman are THIS completely incompetent.

    I’m not sure what incompetence Localfluff thinks there is. The main problem that caused schedule slips and thus the majority of cost overruns were due to attempting to use technologies that were not mature enough to use on this telescope. The sun shield was one of these. Delays during development problems caused additional expenses in every other system on the satellite. There may have been cost overruns also due to delays at a power supply manufacturer that did not have enough experience in building power supplies.

    These were due to decisions made early in the project. During various reviews, such as the preliminary design review, schedule and cost risks are analyzed and approved. Sometimes those risks do not end as well as hoped, and Webb was victim to a lack of successfully retiring some risks.

    In retrospect, maybe they should not have taken these risks, or maybe Congress should have cancelled Webb and made NASA start over with lower risk technologies and more experienced companies. I consider this to be poor judgement rather than incompetence.

    Either way, it is OK to lament the loss of science and astronomy that could have been funded had Webb not run over budget so badly and had launched in time to do a lot more concurrent astronomy with Hubble.

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