Leaving Earth cover

Now available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

A handful of autographed, hardback copies are still available, directly from the author, for $50, plus $5 shipping. To buy one, please send a $55 check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

The printed version of this book is now out-of-print, so when these are gone, new copies will no longer be available. Get yours while you still can!
 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke
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If Paypal doesn'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

Texas responds to EPA’s effort to regulate CO2

In a letter response to the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Texas has essentially told the EPA to go to hell. Three key quotes from the letter:

In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrialized development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently enacated greenhouse gas regulations — regulations that are plainly contrary to United State law. ….. To encourage acquiesence with your unsupported findings you threaten to usurp state enforcment authority and to federalize the permitting program of any state that fails to pledge their fealty to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [emphasis mine]

The State of Texas does not believe the EPA’s “suggested” approach comports with the rule of law.

Texas will not facilitate EPA’s apparent attempt to thwart these established procedures and ignore the law.

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Genesis cover

Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, and includes a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Melting Ice on Mars?

These Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images show in increasing magnification a puzzling feature in the southeast part of a ice mound in Louth Crater on Mars. Located at 70 degrees north latitude, this is the farthest south that scientists have found permanent water ice. The close-up image suggests melting ice with the draining water running down hill to the south, though on Mars the low air pressure would cause any liquid water to evaporate instantly. Key quote:

These may be the crests of partially defrosted dark sand dunes or perhaps some other feature that we do not understand. This is the only area on Louth where these enigmatic ridges are found.

wide view of crator mound

Middle view of ice mound

Closeup of ice mound

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Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of makng 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.
 

Second test of Ares solid rocket scheduled

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) has scheduled the second test of the five segment solid rocket motor, planned for use on the Ares I rocket, for August 31. Fun quote:

When fired, the motor will produce a maximum thrust 3.6 million pounds, or 22 million horsepower [half the power of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket]. The cases [segments] have all previously flown on the space shuttle, collectively launching on 57 missions.

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The disconnect between Israelis and elites

This long and fascinating interview about the Israeli-Arab conflict is quite eye-opening. Key quote:

Most Israelis are here because they fled from Muslim and European countries. They don’t feel that either of those blocs have the right to lecture them about anything. Why should a country where your parents were expelled or killed have the right to tell you how to conduct yourself in a war against people who are trying to kill you today? This is something hardly any non-Israelis understand. They don’t understand how galling we find this.

Israelis are often accused of being arrogant, but they find it extremely arrogant for Europeans and Arabs to lecture them about morals, especially during a war. What has Israel ever done that is as brutal as what Europe did to the Jews, or what Arabs routinely do to even each other during armed conflicts?

Read it all.

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The great disconnect

The recent history of NASA illustrates a fundamental problem with how our political class thinks.

In 2004 George Bush announced that NASA would have a new goal, that of the exploration of the solar system. The shuttle would complete construction of the International Space Station and then be retired in 2010. NASA would meanwhile build a replacement for the shuttle, designed to return to the Moon and beyond, and have it flying by 2014.

Notice the gap? The shuttle retires in 2010, four years before its replacement is available. Notice also that the plan insisted that ISS would be finished, fully occupied, and in need of significant resupply and maintenance during this entire time, when neither the shuttle or its replacement would be on hand.

Yet, as obvious as this seems, no one at NASA, in the Bush administration, or in Congress, seemed to notice this gap. The Bush plan was implemented exactly as described, so that today we are about to be left with a space station in orbit and no way to reach it for at least four years. (That other countries can reach the station changes nothing: the United States has been left hanging, lacking a method for transporting its crews to its own space station.)

It was as if, among the political and elite class that runs the government, there was great disconnect between the fantasy of the intended plan and the reality of its implementation. » Read more

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A ground-based telescope matches the Hubble Space Telescope-NOT

Correction.Regular reader James Fincannon emailed me to say that he thinks the image below is an artist’s impression. He is correct. I should have looked more closely at the press release. In reading the actual research paper [pdf] on the results it seems that the VLT did some very sophisticated spectroscopy, thereby measuring the uneven distribution of the velocity and density of the gas around the star. The image below was then created, based largely on Hubble images combined with the new data. In other words, this ground-based telescope did not match the abilities of a space-based telescope in any way. Had the Hubble images not existed the astronomers would have struggled to interpret their spectroscopic data.

Some important astronomy news: The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has released this spectacular image of supernova 1987a, the first and so far only supernova visible to the naked eye since the invention of the telescope.

SN1987a

This image is important for two reasons. First, The data shows that the supernova explosion was not symmetrical, with more material being thrown outward in some directions than in others. This fact confirms what astronomers in recent years have increasingly come to believe: Supernovae explosions are not simple spherical bursts, but chaotic events ripping stars apart in a lopsided manner.

Second, this image demonstrates that ground-based telescopes are becoming amazingly good at doing what the Hubble Space Telescope has done routinely for the past two decades. Five years ago, no telescope on the ground could have resolved the inner ring of supernova 1987a. Only Hubble in space had that capability. Now, VLT can do it, almost as well as Hubble. Though a space-based telescope can still beat any ground-based telescope, it is great news that the technology for ground-based telescopes has improved so much, especially since there presently are no plans to replace Hubble.

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Tunnel and tombs in Mexico

Archeologists have uncovered a previously unknown tunnel and several chambers under the Temple of Quetzacoatl north of Mexico City. Key quote:

Experts say a tomb discovery would be significant because the social structure of Teotihuacan remains a mystery after nearly 100 years of archaeological exploration at the site, which is best known for the towering Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun. No depiction of a ruler, or the tomb of a monarch, has ever been found, setting the metropolis apart from other pre-Hispanic cultures that deified their rulers.

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The August monthly sunspot graph

Waking up is hard to do. Today NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center once again published its monthly graph, showing the progress of the sun’s sunspot cycle in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009.

August 3, 2010 Solar Cycle progression

As I noted when I posted the July graph, the data continues to show that the Sun’s ramp up to solar maximum is far slower and weaker than predicted, despite the stories this week about how Sunday’s coronal mass ejection demonstrates that the sun is “waking up.”

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Lost British ship found in Arctic after almost 150 years

Using sonar equipment Canadian archeologists have detected the underwater remains of the British ship Investigator, abandoned in the Canadian archipelago of islands by Captain Robert McClure and his crew in 1853. McClure had been sent out to both find the Northwest Passage as well as locate the missing Franklin expedition. As winter had set in in September 1851, however, McClure had anchored the ship for refuge in a bay he named Mercy Bay on the coast of Banks Island. As Pierre Berton noted in his wonderful history of the exploration of the Arctic in the 1800s, The Arctic Grail, Mercy Bay was not a refuge but “a cul-de-sac in which the crew would be confined for the next two years and from which the ship itself would never be freed.” Now, that ship has been rediscovered after almost 150 years.

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Picture of the day from Mars

Sand dunes on Mars, from the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Dunes on Mars

Fun quote:

These dunes are “barchan” dunes, which are also commonly found on Earth. Barchan dunes are generally crescent-shaped, with their “horns” oriented in the downwind direction. They have a steep slip face (the downwind side of the dune). Barchan dunes form by winds that blow mostly in one direction and thus are good indicators of the dominant wind direction. In this case, the strongest winds blow approximately north to south.

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