Leaving Earth cover

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 (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
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: 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.

 


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

Martian stream gullies

The image below from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows gullies remarkably similar to gullies formed on Earth by flowing water, thus providing striking evidence that at some time in the past liquid water did flow on the Martian surface, something that is not possible now. Key quote from the caption:

The gullies shown in the subimage (approximately 710 x 1100 yards) have well developed alcoves, deeply incised channels, and large depositional fans, and are similar to terrestrial landscapes sculpted by surficial water.

The gullies shown in the subimage experienced several periods of activity, as evidenced by older channels cut by younger ones or by their deposits. The current and recent Martian temperatures and atmospheric conditions would not allow for water to be stable at the surface for extended periods of time: it is so cold that the water would freeze, and then it would sublime quickly, because the air is very thin and dry. These gullies could have formed under a different climate, or maybe by repeated bursts of transient fluids. Current leading hypotheses explaining the origin of gullies includes erosion from seepage or eruption of water from a subsurface aquifer, melting of ground ice, or dust-blanketed surface snow.

gullies in Sisyphi Planum

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Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. 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.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, 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

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.
 

Deficit commission rewrites its recommendation, but keeps it

Jeff Foust has noticed that the Obama’s deficit commission has rewritten its recommendation that the NASA subsidies to commercial space be cut. The rewrite doesn’t really change the recommendation. Instead, it merely corrects the language to more accurately describe the subsidy program.

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Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

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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

ELISABETH SABADITSCH-WOLFF’s November 23 court hearing

As the court proceedings occurred during Thanksgiving week, I am late reporting this: On November 23 Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff had her court hearing in Austria, where she faces imprisonment for speaking out against Islam. You can see a very detailed report of the hearing here. The next hearing is now scheduled for January 18, 2011.

All in all, this whole trial is a travesty of justice. Sabaditsch-Wolff merely quoted the Koran in describing why she considers it a threat. More importantly, doesn’t freedom of speech mean freedom of speech? That some Muslims were offended by her comments is completely irrelevant.

You can send money to Sabaditsch-Wolff’s legal fund here.

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Killing bats to save them!

In a wonderful example of government stupidity, environmental officials in Wisconsin want to try to “exclude” bats from caves in order to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome.

Some quick background: White nose syndrome appeared in upstate New York about four years ago, killing about 90 percent of the bats affected. It has since spread down the east coast following bat migration patterns as they travel during the summer months. (While human activity might spread the syndrome as well, the evidence all points to the bats as the primary vector.) A newly discovered fungus that is seen on all affected bats, for which the syndrome is named, is the prime suspect for killing them, as it disturbs them during hibernation, causing them to wake more frequently, burn up their reserves,and thus starve to death.

Wisconsin officials, in their infinte wisdom, have decide that the way they will save the bats of their state will be to declare the fungus an invasive specie. They will then be empowered to do anything they can to prevent its spread. And how will they do this? By preventing bats from entering caves and bringing the fungus with them.

Let me say that again: Wisconsin environment officials want to “exclude bats from caves” in order to save them. The result of course will be a biological genocide, since without access to caves during the cold hibernation period the bats will surely die.

If you don’t believe me, see this press release. To quote:

The third proposed rule adds provisions to NR 40.04 and 40.07 relating to early detection and prevention of the spread of the disease due to human activities, including the decontamination of clothes and equipment that have been used in mines or caves, and limited access of bats or people to caves or mines. [emphasis mine]

If you still don’t believe me, read the state’s actual proposed management plan [pdf]. To quote page 5:

Under the proposed rules, the department may ask any person who owns, controls, or manages property here a cave or mine may be present to install and properly maintain physical barriers to limit access to the cave or mine by either individuals or bats, in accordance with a plan approved by the department. The department is seeking funding to assist with the installation of barriers, and therefore cost to those parties who install such barriers should be negligible. Additionally, commercial caves will have the option to exclude bats from their cave(s) with the help of the department, allowing them to remain open for tourism, and resulting in no loss of tourism dollars. [emphasis mine]

Moreover, this plan will give these officials the power to enter private property without the landowners’ permission.

Cavers have been trying to explain to the Wisconsin officials that this entire approach is madness. So far, these pleas have had very little effect. You can see their efforts here.

This whole story might be one of the best examples of why it is always bad idea to concentrate a lot of power in the hands of government. Better to spread the power around among a lot of private landowners, as then you also spread the stupidity around as well, and reduce the chances that the only approach taken is the worse approach.

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A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change

From the “We’re all gonna die!” department: A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change, according to a global warming advocacy group.

And for those who don’t notice the sarcasm above, let me state unequivocally that I consider this report to be total twaddle, propaganda timed for release just before the start of the Cancun summit on climate.

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Driving vs flying

After a twelve hour drive from Chicago, I am finally home. It might seem silly to make this trip by car when the plane is faster, but since Sept 11 I have found it actually makes more sense to drive when the trip is 12 hours or less. First, a door to door plane flight will take about 6 hours, so you don’t save that much time. Second, by driving I have access to a car in Chicago, and don’t need to rent something. Three, the total cost is significantly less, especially since we save two airfares.

And finally, neither I nor my wife Diane have to submit ourselves to TSA abuse. I consider myself a free American, and don’t take kindly to government officials abusing their power unconstitutionally. If the airlines haven’t yet realized that this security madness is losing them business, it ain’t my problem.

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Animal rights terrorists make death threats against scientist

Thugs! Animal rights terrorists have repeatedly threatened a scientist with death, including blowing up his car . Key quote:

The researcher, who experiments on monkeys, opened a letter left in his mailbox to discover razor blades and a death threat. “We follow you on campus,” Jentsch recalled the note reading. “One day, when you’re walking by, we’ll come up behind you, and cut your throat.”

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What pilots think of the TSA

What pilots think of the TSA. I like this one:

THEY THINK THE AVERAGE TSA WORKER IS AN IDIOT.

If there is one theme that emerges clearly time and again in pilots’ online discussions, it’s disdain for the TSA checkpoint worker. They are “the government equivalent of being a Wendy’s burger flipper,” according to one typical comment from AirlinePilotForums.com. “Barney Fife is more suited for their job,” writes another. Anecdotes frequently portray TSA workers as mindlessly hewing to procedures at the expense of exercising the judgment needed to sniff out the evildoers.

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Why NASA recently pulled the X-34 out of storage

Why NASA recently pulled the X-34 out of storage. Key quote:

The idea to ship the X-34s to Mojave and inspect them originated with a Dryden-based NASA engineer, Brown said. “When he found out this thing still existed … he decided people should take a look to see if it could be refurbished and made flightworthy.” That’s when the contractors came to retrieve the two neglected spacecraft, pictured above en route to the Mojave.

But that doesn’t mean NASA has formal plans to operate the X-34s under its own auspices, now or ever, Brown stressed. Provided they’re in flyable shape, it’s far more likely the space agency will make the X-34s available to private industry. “There are a number of firms interested in these things, developing communications and other technologies,” Brown said. “It would be helpful if they had a vehicle.”

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