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

A wish list of spectacular future planetary missions

Steve Squyres of Cornell University and the project scientist of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity spoke today at an astrobiology symposium in Arlington, Virginia. He described several spectacular planetary missions that might be flown in the coming decade. All are being considered. None have yet been chosen or funded.

  • A mission to grab a sample from a comet and return it to Earth.

  • A mission to put a rover or lander on one of the poles of Mars to study the frozen layers of water under the icecap.

  • Mars sample return mission. This mission is so difficult and expensive that it probably would be broken down into three parts:
    • Two rovers on the surface to gather and cache sample material.

    • A lander/rover mission to grab the samples and bring them up to Mars orbit. “Putting into orbit a precious cargo the size of a coconut,” Squyres said.

    • A mission to grab the sample cargo in Martian orbit and return it to Earth.

  • An orbiter to study both Jupiter and its moon Europa.

  • An orbiter to Enceladus, the moon of Saturn, to study the water and organic chemistry in its mysterious plumes.

  • An orbiter to Titan, with balloon to probe the atmosphere as well as a “lake lander, a boat” to study Titan’s lakes.

  • A variety of landers and rovers to go to Venus. One of the more astonishing mission concepts would land, then take off again to visit different places on the surface.

Squyres is the co-chair of a committee of the National Science Foundation that is right now putting together a decadal survey for outlining unmanned planetary research for the next decade. This survey is expected to be released in March, which is when we will find out which of the above missions the planetary science community prefers.

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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

Climate Talks in China Limp Toward Deadlock

Thank god for small blessings. The climate talks in China this past week are limping towards a deadlock, with no new agreements. It appears that the biggest problem are disagreements between China and the U.S.

Personally, I love how this quote from the article so nicely illustrates the totalitarian nature of many climate activists and their organizations:

Currently, the World Resources Institute is proposing the White House abandon legislative means and rely on the existing Clean Air Act to make emissions reductions administratively.

In other words, if the elected Congress of the United States is unwilling to pass restrictions (because a majority of the people of the United States oppose them), then the government should ignore the people’s wishes and impose those restrictions, without permission.

Ugh. The less power these environmental dictators have, the better for everyone else.

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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.
 

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.


 

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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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

Hubble tracks the aftermath of a possible asteroid collision

Using the Hubble Space Telescope over the last ten months, astronomers have tracked the decaying aftermath of a possible asteroid collision. Key quote:

Astronomers think a smaller rock, perhaps 10 to 15 feet wide, slammed into the larger one. The pair probably collided at high speed, about 11,000 mph, which smashed and vaporized the small asteroid and stripped material from the larger one. Jewitt estimates that the violent encounter happened in February or March 2009 and was as powerful as the detonation of a small atomic bomb.

The image sequence below, taken from the original paper describing the discovery [pdf], shows the slow changes that have occurred since January. At the moment scientists do not have an satisfactory explanation for the nucleus’s X-shaped pattern in the earliest images.

sequence of images of disrupted asteroid

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We won’t release our contributors because the adminstration will then harass them

Is this how a government in a free society functions? The Chamber of Commerce won’t release its contributors because they fear the administration will harass and threaten them. And they have experience to back that fear up. Key quote:

What this administration wants is a list of who the companies are who are contributors, and we saw last year . . .when we very publicly ran ads against the Patients Protections and Affordable Care Act . . . there was an attempt to try and find out who were the corporations that were contributing to that effort. When some of those corporate names were divulged, not by us, by others, what did they receive? They received protests, they received threats, they were intimidated, they were harassed, they had to hire additional security, they were recipients of a host of proxies leveled at those companies that had nothing to do with the purpose of those companies. So we know what the purpose here is. It’s to harass and intimidate. [emphasis mine]

That the White House and President Obama are right now willing to accuse their opponents of all manner of evils (taking money from foreign governments) without any evidence is further evidence that there are reasons to fear them.

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MTV Denies That Obama Telecast Is Political

How stupid do they really think people are? MTV and Viacom deny that a one hour Obama telecast only three weeks before the election, A Conversation with President Obama, is not political and does not require them to give equal time to Republicans. Note that the White House came up with the idea, and that the audience is being pre-screened in advance.

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EPA Funnels Taxpayer Money to Dozens of Liberal Community Activist Groups

Proof that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more to do with propaganda and politics than regulation: “EPA funnels taxpayer money to dozens of liberal community activist groups.” I especially like this one:

A grant recipient in Appalachia — the heart of coal country — will teach households in Franklin County, Ky., how to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions. The project called “Lighten Up, Frankfort!” will use the book “The Low Carbon Diet” to guide households through a series of actions to reduce their household energy use. The actions include “empowering” people to “lose unwanted pounds.”

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APS responds to Harold Lewis’s resignation letter

The American Physical Society has responded to Harold Lewis’s resignation letter.

It appears from their response that they are feeling some pressure about their past position, which stated “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.” Compare that with what they say now, in their response to Lewis:

APS continues to recognize that climate models are far from adequate, and the extent of global warming and climatic disruptions produced by sustained increases in atmospheric carbon loading remain uncertain.

How nice. A science organization recognizing the uncertainty of science!

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The World’s First Everything-Proof Underground Luxury Community

The world’s first everything-proof underground luxury community. Fun quote:

The Barstow bunker was built to withstand a 50-megaton nuclear blast 10 miles away, 450mph winds, a magnitude-10 earthquake, 10 days of 1,250°F surface fires, and three weeks beneath any flood. Vicino says that a soon-to-be-installed air-filtration system will also neutralize any biological, chemical or nuclear attacks. The Barstow branch will stock enough food and clothing to sustain 135 people for at least a year, and in a lifestyle that Vicino describes as compact but luxurious, like being on a cruise ship.

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The state of NASA’s commercial crew program

The state of NASA’s commercial crew program. Key quote:

The Obama administration requested $3.3 billion for commercial crew services over the next three years, but a so-called compromise bill forged in the Senate slashed the proposal in half. After months of heated contention, the House of Representatives finally agreed to the Senate authorization bill in late September, calling for $1.6 billion for the commercial program.

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