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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black by either making a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal, or $3 to $50 through Patreon, or any amount through Zelle.

The best method to donate or subscribe is by using Zelle through your internet bank account, since it charges no fees to you or I. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). What you donate is what I get.

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If these electronic payment methods don'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

A Tea Party in Maryland

Last night I attended the most recent meeting of the Maryland Society of Patriots, a tea party group that was founded back in 2009. Attendance was pretty typical, with about fifty people filling the meeting room of the local library in Burtonsville, Maryland. As usual, Sam Hale, the founder of the group, had garnered a range of candidates to speak to us, including Eric Wargotz, the Republican candidate for the Senator, running against Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland).

Eric Wargotz speaking at MSOP meeting

For Wargotz, the questions got a bit heated at one point, as one member of the audience wanted to know his commitment to defending the Constitution.

What makes this group significant is that the majority of its members come from very Democratic districts. Yet, not only has attendance been high at almost every meeting, the membership has including a wide range of ordinary people, most of whom have never done politicial activitism in their lives.

Eric Cary, State Senator candidate

This is Eric Cary, who is running for the Maryland State Senate. I’ve included more pictures below the fold. » Read more

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

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


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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

The basic ingredients of life might exist in Titan’s atmosphere

Big news! In a simulation of the upper atmosphere of Titan at about 600 miles altitude, scientists have discovered the basic ingredients of life are quickly synthesized when exposed to the kind of hard radiation found there. Key quote from the press release, issued today at the 42nd meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences:

The molecules discovered include the five nucleotide bases used by life on Earth (cytosine, adenine, thymine, guanine and uracil) and the two smallest amino acids, glycine and alanine.

For those who don’t remember their high school biology, these nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA.

The abstract of the scientist’s work can be found here.

What the scientists did was recreate the basic ingredients of Titan’s upper atmosphere, comprised of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Cassini data has shown that within this atmosphere are very large molecules, as yet unidentified.

The scientists then bathed their recreation in the kind of intense radiation expected at that altitude, and amazingly produced the complex organic molecules that are basic to life. Moreover, the experiment was the first to produce these complex molecules without the presence of water, something that scientists have previously thought was required. These results suggest that in addition to forming in the oceans, life could also form in the upper atmospheres of planets.

This result also suggests strongly that it is incredibly easy to produce the basic building blocks of life, almost anywhere in the universe where organic molecules are present.

White House arbitrarily gives healthcare law waivers to some companies

The law for some but not for others: Threatened with a firestorm of protest just prior to the election because a number of large corporations were going to drop millions from healthcare coverage because of the new Obamacare regulations, the White House today arbitrarily waived for one year those provisions for 30 large companies.

This action raises three obvious points:

  • If the healthcare law was so wonderful, why is the White House suspending its inception?
  • Why should these companies get a break, and not others? In fact, if I was the owner of a company that did not get a waiver, I would sue.
  • This once again proves false the claim by Obama that the law would force no one to lose their healthcare plan. To me, the words “You lie!” come quickly to mind.

Ed Morrissey at makes some additional good points about this absurd situation.

Pluto’s ice: 97% nitrogen, 3% methane

More results from the press conference going on right now at the 42nd meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences:

Pluto’s surface ice is made up of 97% nitrogen, 3% methane, while the surface of the Kuiper Belt object Eris (which is larger than Pluto) is even more rich in methane, with a make up of 90% nitrogen and 10% methane. Both measurements go down to a depth of about 10 inches. To see the abstract for this result, go here.

The atmosphere of Venus is 60% less dense at its poles

By diving into the upper atmosphere of Venus above its north pole, Venus Express has found that the atmosphere there is 60% less dense than predicted. This from a press conference going on right now at the 42nd meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences. They plan an additional dive campaign during the next month. And they plan more dives, going deeper each time, as they judge the consequences to the spacecraft each time.

To read the abstracts of the Venus Express papers, go here.

Updated: The full press release, with images, can be seen here.

Geert Wilder’s words make Muslims uncomfortable

How sad. The harsh words that Dutch politician Geert Wilder has for Islam (now facing prison for saying those words) is making Muslims in the Netherlands feel unsafe. Key quote:

“My family and I no longer feel safe in the Netherlands because Mr. Wilders is continually making hateful remarks about Islamic Dutch people,” said one complaint read out by the judge.

Gee. What about the more than 16,000 violent attacks committed by Islamic terrorists since September 11, 2001, leaving tens of thousands of people dead or maimed? How does this violence make these Dutch Muslims feel?

The October 2010 sunspot graph

Yesterday NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center published its October monthly graph, showing the sun’s developing sunspot cycle in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009.

October Sunspot graph

Sunspot activity in September clearly jumped, though it still remains far below predictions. Prepare for the weakest solar maximum since the 1810s!

Note also that today the Sun is blank, with no sunspots, the first time this has happened since August. At that time I speculated that this might “be the last time the Sun will be blank for years as it continues to ramp up to its next solar maximum.” Obviously not. The question now is whether today will be the finale in blankness for this minimum.

EPA’s Own Estimates Say Greenhouse Gas Regs Could ‘Slow Construction Nationwide for Years’ — and Take a Century to Reduce Temperature 0.0015 Degrees

The EPA itself believes that its effort to regulate carbon dioxide under its Prevention of Significant Deterioration program could “slow construction nationwide for years”. And what would this accomplish? Global temperatures would be reduced a whopping 0.0015 degrees! Key quote:

“It is clear throughout the country, PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) permit issuance would be unable to keep up with the flood of incoming applications, resulting in delays, at the outset, that would be at least a decade or longer, and that would only grow worse over time as each year, the number of new permit applications would exceed permitting authority resources for that year.”

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