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

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

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

TSA Confiscates Camera of Woman filming man stripped to underwear

More airport insanity. The TSA confiscated the camera of a woman filming the arrest of a man who decided to strip down to his underwear rather than go through the pat down. Note that man got arrested, not for taking off his clothes, but for refusing to put them back on so the TSA security guards could then give him the pat down.

Update: link fixed. Sorry about that!

Former Shuttle Manager Decries NASA’s Commercial Crew Safety Regs

A deal with the devil: Former shuttle manager decries NASA’s commercial crew safety regulations. Key quote:

The U.S. government did not always rely on voluminous specifications to safeguard pilots or astronauts, Hale said, citing requirements for the first U.S. military aircraft which covered only 2.5 pages and those of NASA’s Gemini capsule which were about 12 pages long.

Sightseeing on Mars

Those who visit this website regularly know that I repeatedly post images from the various Mars orbiters and rovers. I do this not only because the images have scientific interest or that they are cool, but because it is simply fun to sightsee, even if it is done by proxy using a robot many millions of miles away. Here are two more images of the sights of Mars.

The first is a mosiac image of a small crater that the rover Opportunity strolled past on November 9 in its four year journey to Endeavour Crater.

small crater on Mars

What always amazes me about the images that Opportunity has taken as it travels across the Martian desert is how totally lifeless this desert is. You would be very hard-pressed to find any desert on Earth like this. On Earth, life is everywhere, even in deserts with their harsh environment. Moreover, life on Earth has reshaped the surface drastically. Environmentalists like to whine about the havoc humans wreck on nature, but the truth is that all life does this continually. Plants and trees help soften the terrain. Animals (not just humans) mold the surface to their needs.

On Mars, however, all one sees is wind-strewn sand across barren bedrock. What this suggests is that, if there is life on Mars, it is well buried, not very visible, and possibly quite rare. It will thus be difficult to spot.

The second image is another one of those Martian collapse features, where some form of fluid flow under the surface washed out the supporting material. causing the surface to eventually collapse. In this case, however, the collapse left at least one natural bridge. Based on the scale (25 cm = 1 pixel), this bridge is about 80 feet wide and 100 feet long. (To calculate its height requires more mathematical skills than I have.)

Boy, wouldn’t this be a magnificent thing to hike under and across!

Natural Bridge on Mars

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