Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 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.


Flash! SpaceX to use a NEW Falcon 9 1st stage!

Both side boosters landing during the 1st Falcon Heavy launch
Both side boosters landing during
the 1st Falcon Heavy launch

Capitalism in space: For the first time in since September 2020, SpaceX has delivered a new Falcon 9 1st stage to its Florida launch site in preparation for launch.

This new stage will be used on the June 3rd launch of a cargo Dragon freighter to ISS.

What is remarkable about this story is that it is news that SpaceX is using a new first stage. Not only have all of their fifteen launches in 2021 lifted off with used boosters, since November 2020 they have completed nineteen launches using only used boosters.

That’s 19 launches in only six months, all with previously flown boosters!

During that time the company’s Falcon rocket division has apparently dedicated its time in upgrading and building new Falcon Heavy 1st stage boosters, in preparation for the first Falcon Heavy launches since June 2019, set for July and October later this year. I suspect the focus has been an effort to upgrade the core booster so that it will be successfully recovered this time, something that did not occur on two of the first three Falcon Heavy launches in 2018 and 2019..

Meanwhile, SpaceX has spent all of 2021 making the reuse of Falcon 9 boosters standard operating procedure and remarkably routine. For this rocket company, it is now rare and unusual for it to fly a new booster. Instead, it saves a fortune each launch by reliably reusing old boosters, an achievement that for fifty years rocket engineers and managers at companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and ULA insisted was completely impractical and certainly impossible.

Well, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, “When a distinguished but elderly engineer or manager at a long-established rocket company states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

Based on SpaceX’s pace in ’21, the company is likely to complete more than 30 launches, exceeding its own record for commercial launches in a single year by a company by about one third. And it will do it almost entirely with old previously flown boosters!

Keep this story in mind the next time someone in any space company or at NASA states categorically that something shouldn’t or can’t be done. All it will take to prove that person wrong will likely be some competitor who pays no attention, figures it out, and makes it happen.

In fact, freedom and competition do this naturally. Give people the freedom to compete and be creative, and they will always astonish you.

Readers!
 

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18 comments

  • Alton

    Yes, but how in this day and time can WE TRUST an unproven flight article to do the job RIGHT ?????

    lol LoL LOL !

  • mkent

    …an achievement that for fifty years rocket engineers and managers at companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and ULA insisted was completely impractical and certainly impossible.

    Really now. That would be an odd thing to say, considering that they themselves had already done it 130 times.

  • Lee Stevenson

    To be fair, 50 years ago it would have been impossible to land a first stage vertically, it is only down to the massive advances in computer technology, which is where Musk comes from, that has enabled SpaceX to achieve all that it has. The difference is that he is a (relative) youngster with a grasp of what is technology possible today. These are the people that are needed to move things along at a rapid pace… As Bob has pointed out, Blue Origins has stalled after appointing an “old school space” guy as leader. Old heads are certainly useful, valuable even, but when it comes to innovation, that is a young person’s game. Very little that could be classed as “ground braking” came from someone doing the same job for decades.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Man, I miss the Space Shuttles. Despite all their flaws, something about them just always got the heart going. Really great looking, exciting launches, picturesque in zero-g…

    Stick boosters and capsules are practical, and efficient, and economical, and just blah lol

    Really looking forward to that quintessential spacecraft, Starship. It’ll be everything Shuttle aspired to, times 100. Excitement guaranteed.

  • Andi

    “We didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so we did it.”

  • Edward

    mkent wrote: “That would be an odd thing to say, considering that they themselves had already done it 130 times.

    And yet those same engineers said exactly that, even as SpaceX was performing tests with their Grasshopper platform, because of those 135 times with the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters (not to be confused with first stage boosters). It was not quite worth the expense of recovering them from the ocean and refurbishing them, Which is why SLS will throw them away. Landing in the ocean was hard enough, but getting a booster to go back to the launch site and land vertically after the harsh temperatures, pressures, and forces of reentry truly seemed too much.

    No one else took the concept seriously until SpaceX figured out and demonstrated that retropropulsive reentry really could work (the concept was known but not used). Slowing the booster just as it reached the thicker parts of the atmosphere turned out to prevent the expected damage.

    The main problem that the old-school engineers had was their concentration on performance, and leaving propellant in the tanks for a landing reduced the payload that could be launched. Adding the weight of landing legs reduced performance even further. A second problem that these engineers had was that they were not as concerned with reducing the price of getting to space as were their few commercial customers. To them, the rocket wasn’t broken, so it didn’t need fixing.

    Elon Musk wanted to explore Mars commercially, but he discovered that the price of launch was prohibitive. He started Space Exploration Technologies Corp. expressly to reduce that launch cost. Before Musk, Peter Diamandis created the X-Prize specifically to encourage finding ways to reuse rockets, to operate them more like airliners, and even the winning team replaced, rather than refurbished, the solid rocket motor between flights. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin arose from this effort.

    Until these three men inspired and enabled innovative engineers to try this, it truly was considered completely impractical and certainly impossible.

  • George C

    After some web research it surprised me to see that Roscosmos is trying to do the reuse thing, which is new for them, along with a rew rocket engine using a new rocket fuel and a new rocket. Four new things at once which is the kind of situation that software engineers try to avoid. Maybe Soyuz is at the end of all possible incremental change life.

  • Mike Borgelt

    I think boosters could have been landed successfully 50 years ago. Just nobody thought or needed to do it and organise the right architecture for the booster (lots of smaller engines). Lots of the early von Braun concepts have re-use with parachute recovery.
    Computers weren’t so bad then if the hardware was designed to be dedicated to the particular task. See microwave landing system for terminal guidance and radar altimeters.

  • Mike Borgelt

    The Shuttle was a lesson in how not to do re-use. Lots of bits were thrown away and the solid boosters and orbiter needed re-building between flights. Hardly airline style.

  • Edward

    Mike Borgelt wrote: “I think boosters could have been landed successfully 50 years ago. Just nobody thought or needed to do it and organise the right architecture for the booster (lots of smaller engines).

    50 years ago, there was an idea to stick wings onto a Saturn V first stage to fly it back and land it like an airplane, or rather like a glider, but I don’t know that it got out of the idea phase and into the “how do we make it work” study phase. In this respect, somebody thought that a first stage could conceivably be reused, but didn’t seem to have enough support to give it a try.

  • Ray

    I believe they landed all three boosters on the second launch

  • mpthompson

    To be fair, 50 years ago it would have been impossible to land a first stage vertically, it is only down to the massive advances in computer technology, which is where Musk comes from, that has enabled SpaceX to achieve all that it has.

    I don’t believe this is true. 70’s era avionic systems would have been quite capable of landing a booster vertically. The system would have been larger (probably the size of a breadbox rather than a slice of bread) and it would probably touch down within 10’s meters of a target rather than meters, but neither would have been showstoppers. It really was about a lack of vision about what would be required to establish a sustainable presence in space.

  • Ray: You are correct. I misread my report on that launch back in April 2019.

  • Jeff Wright

    Phil Bono pushed for squat plug-nozzle designs…but wing were what pilots wanted. Medaris pushed for this before York and the USAF pushed him and the ABMA both out to pasture. People had it in for Marshall even then-and we were actively prevented from beating Sputnik.

  • Mike Borgelt

    I read a book once – Cities in Space (author was an O’Neill fan). He mentioned the fly back S-1C. Reckoned it got as far down in detail as choosing tires for the landing gear.

  • pzatchok

    The Air force was trying to work out a tail down vertical landing aircraft back in the 60’s.
    It just never worked out.
    Not enough engine control and the pilots had a hard time controlling the flight surfaces during landing.

    If the Air Force couldn’t do it with jet engines they wouldn’t have even tried it with rocket engines.

  • benEzra

    IIRC the Air Force was trying to do vertical landing with human pilots trying to land an aircraft manually, while lying on their backs and looking at the landing pad in rear-view mirrors, in aircraft optimized for horizontal flight. And jet engines have much slower throttle response than rocket engines.

    Note that NASA did nail vertical landing of rockets in the 1960s, not only with the human-piloted LEM, but with the Surveyor moon landers.

    By the early 1970s, computing power and rocket engine tech was almost certainly sufficient to tail-land a booster, either via onboard computers or by command guidance from a mainframe on the ground. Bringing velocity to zero on a stationary ground landing pad is a much easier problem than hitting a Mach 20 reentry vehicle at 30,000 feet with a maneuvering Mach 10 interceptor, and 70s command-guidance systems were demonstrably good enough for the latter (Sprint ABM).

    What was missing to do booster landing in 1970 was the genius simplicity of SpaceX’s architecture (1950s style grid fins and simple RCS on a stick booster, with some basic heat shielding, and lots of smaller engines instead of one or two big ones to keep thrust/weight manageable when landing empty on one engine). Most rockets of the time used the biggest engines they could, which meant thrust/weight when nearly empty would have been too high to easily land even with a fairly deep-throttling engine. Even taking off with with 9 engines and landing on 1, a Falcon 9 has a T/W greater than 1 when landing.

  • Edward

    I think that Robert’s point was that had NASA chosen to make a reusable booster stage, half a century ago, then they could have figured out how to do it. The problem was that there was no will to figure out the way.

    Had we had low-cost access to space four decades ago, then what could have been accomplished in the meantime? I think that we will know the answer to that in four decades from now.

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