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.
 
Scroll down for today's updates.

Deniers of science

On Saturday (July 24) the American Geophysical Union published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters, entitled “Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10.” This paper attempted to explain the unusually cold 2009-2010 winter, with its record snow falls.

The conclusions of the paper were reasonable, noting that this past winter experienced both an El Nino event in the Pacific as well as a very negative (cold) North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). To quote the paper’s conclusions: “In winters when an El Nino event and a negative NAO combine, analysis reveal that there are positive snow anomalies across the southern U.S. and northern Europe.”

The authors of the paper made no attempt to explain why these two climate events “combined” this past winter, which in the field of climate change is actually the essential question. What caused it? Moreover, did the deep and extended negative (cold) phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) contribute as well, and if so, why did the AO also go negative this winter? And finally, were all these climate events somehow related to the Sun’s unusally long and deep solar minimum?

That they didn’t answer these fundamental questions is not surprising. Climotogists have been struggling with them for decades, and to expect this quickly written paper focused on this one climate event — the cold winter of 2009-2010 — to answer them would be unreasonable. In fact, considering the state of our knowledge, it probably is impossible for any paper to answer these questions at this time.

What makes this particular paper really noteworthy, however, is a quote in its introductory paragraphs:

The wintry winter has encouraged deniers of global warming » Read more

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Chamberlain’s speech from movie Gettysburg

An evening pause: In our modern “politically correct” society, many people object strenuously when I express my unwavering preference for the British-American culture that founded the United States. It seems that today’s polite society considers it judgmental and unfair to suggest our way of life is superior to others. Well, before you protest, please listen to this speech from the movie Gettysburg, in which Colonial Joshua Chamberlain explains why he decided to fight for the Union in the Civil War. To quote, “We are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.” Then he adds this most important point: “Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was.”

That is our culture. That is what we as a society have always stood for. And it is these values that I wish to propagate to the stars, a desire for which I will make no apologizes.

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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

Exploring virgin cave passage

As I mentioned previously, last weekend I was in West Virginia exploring and surveying some newly discovered cave passages. These pictures, taken by Nikki Fox, will give you a flavor of what it is like to visit a place never before seen by human eyes.

Bob surveying

Here I am, trying to sketch the final section of a clean, generally dry flowstone and bedrock passage. Trust me, it isn’t easy drawing a place that your body almost fills.

The lead where this virgin passage began had been known for decades, but had never been entered because » Read more

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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

Whisper of the heart

An evening pause: Of all the animators in the world today, Hayao Miyazaki is probably the best. Every single one of his films is an incredible viewing experience. Here is a clip from Whisper of the Heart (1995), a truly wonderful film about young love and hope. Though he didn’t direct it, Miyazaki wrote the screenplay and storyboards as well as produced it. Not surprisingly, the film is seeped in his style, with the same unique but believable characters, unpredictable but compelling story-telling, and a magical originality that is rare in movies today.

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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

ISS and Chinese satellite debris

Russian mission control has indicated that the debris left over from destruction of a Chinese satellite in 2007 poses a “danger” to the International Space Station. Key quote from a Russian official:

“If the calculations show that the debris is approaching the station at an unacceptably close range, the six astronauts will receive the order to take shelter in the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft which are docked with the ISS.”

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Jackie Gleason and Frank Fontaine

An evening pause: In the 1960s, the Jackie Gleason Show was one of television’s most popular variety shows. Each episode had one regular routine, where Gleason played Joe the bartender, visited by an unseen Mr. Dunnaghy. Invariably, Joe would bring out his friend, Crazy Guggenheim, played by Frank Fontaine. Fontaine, as Crazy, would then hold everyone spellbound for five plus minutes with the most silly charactor humor one can imagine.

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Solar powered plane flies for two weeks

Zephr, a British-built solar-powered unmanned plane was ordered to return to Earth after flying continuously for two weeks without refueling. Key quote:

Zephyr is set to be credited with a new world endurance record (336 hours, 24 minutes) for an unmanned, un-refuelled aircraft – provided a representative of the world air sports federation, who was present at Yuma, is satisfied its rules have been followed properly.

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An ice-free Arctic in 10 years?

In today’s version of global warming fear-mongering, Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) declared that the Arctic will be ice-free in “five or 10 years.” He apparently based this statement on a 2009 Geophysical Research Letters paper [pdf] that, using computer models, predicted an ice-free Arctic in September could occur as soon as the late 2020s but was more likely in the late 2030s.

Wanna bet? Since that 2009 paper was published, Arctic ice has seen a rebound in ice extent. Moreover, the Arctic oscillation remains in the deepest freeze it has seen in years. And the sun remains quiet, less active than we have seen it since scientists began tracking its behavior from space. Such inactivity means a dimmer sun, which in turn brings with it cold temperatures. Here is the most recent graph (updated on July 20) from the Total Solar Irradiance Time Series produced by Physikalisch- Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos (PMOD) using satellite data since 1978:

PMOD graph, July 20, 2010

Even though the sun’s total irradiance has shown an up-tick recently as it slowly moves from solar minimum towards solar maximum, if you look closely you will see this up-tick still remains below the lowest points for the previous three solar minimums. And as I have noted here, we appear to be heading for the weakest solar maximum in two centuries.

Of course (as stock brokers say), the past performance of all of these trends is no guarantee of the future performance. Nonetheless, the data indicates clearly the simplistic nature of statements like Kerry’s.

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Sunset on the Moon

As the sun sets on Bhabha crater on the Moon’s farside, small boulders on the crater’s central peaks become visible in this Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image, with inset below. (It is very worthwhile to click on the link above and stroll through the full resolution image.) Scientists believe that the impact which created this crater excavated these boulders from deep within the Moon’s crust, thereby making them valuable tools for determining the geological history of the Moon. Of course, to use these tools requires the geologist to be there, something that might not happen for a while.

lunar sunset

inset

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Worries about JWST

Keith Cowing at NasaWatch notes quickly that the current budget battles over NASA have people in NASA concerned about the future of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope has further cost overruns, and should NASA end up operating under a continuing resolution rather than a full budget, there won’t be enough money to keep the project above water.

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Space war update

This Orlando Sentinel analysis of the various Congressional NASA budget proposals working their way through the House and Senate right now concludes, as I have been saying for months, that the future for NASA is not good. Key quote:

The plan orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft — about $11 billion during three years, with $3 billion next year — than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That — plus the short deadline — has set off alarms.

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Swallowing a planet

A star with an appetite: Astronomers have used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to take a closer look at an engimatic star in the constellation Pisces and found that the dust cloud that surrounds it as well as the unusual and enormous jets that shoot from it probably originated when the star evolved, expanded, and swallowed an orbiting companion, either a giant planet or companion star.

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Journolist scandal-Tucker Carlson editorial

Tucker Carlson, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, has written a lengthy essay on his organization’s series on the scandal surrounding the defunct liberbal Journolist listserv. Key quote:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

Read it all.

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Exploring Mars from Earth

Want to poke around on Mars? Since it might be a while before you can actually go there, I suggest you instead make frequent visits to the images page for the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pictures that appear here are routinely breath-taking. Below is a cropped image showing the flat top of a mesa in Coprates Chasma. The full image shows detailed layers down the side of the mesa as well as rippled dunes on the mesa top. Everything is remarkably reminescent of something you’d see if you visited the Grand Canyon. Only on Mars, this grand canyon is many times larger and deeper.

Mesa top on Mars

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