Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black
It is now the third week in my annual anniversary fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black.
Please consider donating. I am trying to avoid advertising on this website, but will be forced to add it if I do not get enough support from my readers. You can give a one-time contribution, from $5 to $100, or a regular subscription for as little as $2 per month. Your support will be deeply appreciated, and will allow me to continue to report on science and culture freely.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
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
Cortaro, AZ 85652
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.
Keith Cowing at NasaWatchnotes 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.
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.
This Slate article not only describes the new symbol India has chosen for its currency, it also gives a nice thumbnail description of the origins of other currency symbols, such as the U.S. dollar sign and the English pound sign.
Want to learn the inside story of the Apollo lunar landing, now celebrating its 50th anniversary? Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
"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
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.
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.
In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!
Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
"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
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.
The space war continues. The House Committee of Science and Technology has amended its budget proposal to include an extra shuttle flight, making its proposal match the Senate’s proposal in at least this one way.
The Russians unveiled today a new proposed replacement for their Soyuz capsule, capable of carrying six astronauts into orbit. Interestingly, the design does not use parachutes to land, but solid rocket engines.
FIRE has an update on that story of a college teacher fired because he described the Catholic doctrine on homosexuality to his students — in a Catholic doctrines class. It appears the college is backing down.
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.
Astronomers have discovered a runaway star flying away from the Milky Way galaxy at about 450 miles per second. What makes this star even more interesting is that its flight path suggests that it was thrown from the very center of our galaxy by the 4 billion solar mass black hole that sits there.
In a blunt rejection of the Obama proposals for NASA, the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee today reworked the NASA plan — handed to them last week by the committee that authorizes NASA’s budget — so that it more closely matched the House version. These changes cut in half the money for private commercial space while adding $3 billion to continue the development of the Orion capsule and the heavy lift version of the Ares rocket.
An evening pause: Though the sound and video quality from this recording from the Julie Andrews Hour (1972) is not the best, watching Julie Andrews and Cass Elliot do this medley of some of Cass Elliot’s hit songs is still breathtaking.
This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.
Freedom of speech alert. And the danger comes not from the government but from reporters of all things! Leaked emails from a now closed leftwing listserv for journalists reveal an incredible and almost frightening hatred for the right as well as an astonishing willingness by these journalists to use the government to silence opposing opinions. Key quote:
Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”
Mars Odyssey, in orbit around Mars, went into safe mode on July 14, due to problems with “an electronic encoder.” The spacecraft switched to a backup, and engineers have since been able to bring it back to life slowly. They hope to have everything working normally again by the end of this week.
Using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers have identifed a number of stars with masses thought to range from 150 to as much as 300 times the mass of our Sun. Fun quote from the press release:
Within [star cluster] R136, only four stars weighed more than 150 solar masses at birth, yet they account for nearly half of the wind and radiation power of the entire cluster, comprising approximately 100 000 stars in total.
Stars this gigantic are believed to end their life in an explosion so intense it destroys the star entirely, leaving nothing behind but an expanding debris cloud, from which other stars and planets (and even life) can form.
An evening pause: Since it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, let’s watch it as it happened on July 20, 1969. This footage, in a single continuous shot, shows the view out of the lunar module window, beginning when the spacecraft was approximately 40,000 feet above the lunar surface. The key quote as they drop to less than 100 feet off the surface is a voice that first says “60 seconds,” than later “30 seconds.” This is astronaut Charlie Duke, the capsule communicator (capcom) in mission control, telling Neil Armstrong exactly how much time he has left before running out of fuel. Despite these warnings, Armstrong took a careful, almost deliberate look at the surface, realized they were heading for a crater and decided he needed to reposition the landing site. As a result he used almost all the fuel in his tanks, which had people in mission control going nuts as they watched.
Freedom of speech alert: the head of a local North Carolina NAACP chapter was arrested when he tried to attend a local school board meeting to protest its actions. He had been arrested for trespassing at a previous board meeting, and it is unclear if his attempted appearance this time was a trespass as well.