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.

SpaceX sets numerous launch records in placing 60 more Starlink satellites in orbit

Falcon 9 booster landing for a record 7th time

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight broke a whole bunch of new launch records in launching another sixty Starlink satellites into orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket.

First, the leaders in the 2020 launch race:

31 China
22 SpaceX
12 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

The US now leads China 35 to 31 in the national rankings.

For SpaceX, this launch established the following landmarks for the company:

  • A record for the most launches in a single year, 22, also a record for any private company ever.
  • A record for the most successful reuses and landings of 1st stage booster. The first stage on this launch has now flown a record seven times, and after landing safely (as shown in the image above), is now available for an eighth flight.
  • SpaceX’s Starlink constellation now comprises just under 1,000 satellites, the largest satellite constellation ever launched, even though it is only about two-thirds complete.

Finally, for the U.S., the 35 launches so far this year is the most since the dot-com boom in the late nineties. And if the present launch pace continues through December, it is likely that this year will see the most U.S. launches in one year since 1968. The graph below illustrates this clearly:

All successful U.S. launches per year, 1957-2020

You will notice that, since the unusual circumstances of the 1960s space race, the only times the U.S. launch industry has thrived is when freedom, competition, and private enterprise dominated the activity.

In the 1970s, the rocket industry was squelched and almost died because the federal government by law gave NASA and the space shuttle a monopoly on all launches. When that monopoly was lifted by President Reagan in 1986, the industry recovered and boomed during the late nineties, only to slump again when the telephone constellations that fueled that boom (Iridium, Globalstar) collapsed.

The industry however was renewed in the 2010s, when NASA again shifted from being the builder of rockets and spaceships and instead began to hire private companies to do it instead. This new boom was further fueled by the vision of Elon Musk, Peter Beck (of Rocket Lab), and others, who pushed new ideas that the old space industry were too fearful to try.

Ain’t freedom and competition and capitalism a wonderful thing? Maybe more Americans should begin trying it.


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  • Not much to say here: just breath-taking.

  • Edward

    SpaceX has four more orbital launches planned for the rest of the year, and other U.S. companies have another four scheduled. This could bring SpaceX’s total orbital launches as high as 26 and the U.S. number to 43.

  • Edward: Yup. If you look closely at the graph, you will see that the last time the U.S. topped forty successful launches in a single year, it was 1968, the year the Apollo program launched, Apollo 8 went to the Moon, and the U.S. was primed for the 1969 lunar landing.

  • Edward

    It has me thinking about cause and effect. Do we have more launches because we have big plans for space, or do we plan big things in space because we have more launches? Put another way, which came first, the plans or the launches?

    In the 1960s, it seems clear that the goal of going to the Moon gave great incentive to do a lot of exploration in space. However, space was a new frontier, and little was known of it, giving incentive to do a lot of exploration early in the space age. Satellites and probes were small, inexpensive, and quick to build, back then, so it did not take many resources to do a lot of launches. Communication satellites were pretty much the only commercial use of space for the rest of the 20th century, especially making use of geostationary orbit for relay satellites, as Arthur C. Clark had once envisioned. Great dreams, ideas, and plans were formed during this decade, and NASA was expected to fulfill them.

    Things changed in the 1970s. Budgets were smaller, probes and satellites were larger, heavier, more complex, more expensive, and more of them were going deeper into space, requiring larger, more expensive launch vehicles.

    The 1980s changed things again. You noted that the plan for all payloads to go up on the Space Shuttle hurt the number of launches, but it also stopped a plan by the great Robert Truax to create a private commercial launch company (similar to Rocket Lab or SpaceX). The lack of U.S. launch capability allowed Arianespace, and eventually Russia, to take a large portion of the commercial satellite launch business away from the U.S., and it has taken four decades to recover.

    The 1990s brought with it impatience from within the space community. NASA was not doing what had been expected it would do after the 1960s, and several entrepreneurs attempted to kick start commercial space. Launch companies formed, Dr Binder attempted to privately finance his Lunar Prospector probe, and Peter Diamandis boldly set the X-Prize challenge to create reusable manned private commercial spacecraft.

    Great things happened in the 2000 decade. Commercialization of observation satellites was successful, reusable manned spacecraft were demonstrated through the winning of the X-Prize, and the newly invented tiny Cubesat was shown to be popular. Several commercial companies formed in order to take advantage of these developments. The International Space Station (ISS) became a destination in low Earth orbit (LEO). Return to the Moon became a goal, with new lunar exploration by unmanned probes. The kick start of commercial space was finally successful.

    The 2010s saw the fulfillment of many of the things that were needed in order to make come true the dreams and plans of the 1960s. Blue Origin was first to demonstrate a reusable booster could be recovered, and SpaceX was first to reuse a booster on revenue flights. Bold moves by bold companies. Commercial cargo flights and commercial manned flights to the ISS became reality, using hardware owned by private companies rather than by NASA, bold moves by a bold space agency. In another bold move, NASA began contracting unmanned lunar exploration to commercial companies using their own hardware rather than to contractors making hardware for NASA ownership. Perhaps best of all, small satellites started getting their own rides to LEO on commercial small launch vehicles. Satellites and probes are becoming small, inexpensive, and quick to build once again. More and more of them are commercial, private, or university-owned satellites rather than owned by governments, as was the case in the 1960s.

    What a decade to review, next month!

    To me, it looks like the great plan, putting man on the Moon, drove the U.S. launch rate in the 1960s, but it looks like the launch rate in the 1990s and the 2010s were independent of any great plan. It looks to me like the launch rate during the 2010s is more related to the reduced launch costs, allowing for many smaller plans to come to fruition.

    Reduced costs, improved products and services, and more timely availability are what free markets, competition, and capitalism are all about, and that is the point of your essay: “Ain’t freedom and competition and capitalism a wonderful thing? Maybe more Americans should begin trying it.

    This week is the perfect time to say so, because the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims in Plymouth colony was to thank God for the freedom to be productive and prosperous under a free market capitalist system. They would know best, because their previous attempt, using a different system, failed tragically. Their success and prosperity inspired the other British colonies in America to do the same, and they became productive and prosperous, too. In only three and a half centuries of freedom and liberty, these few backwoods villages grew into the nation that first landed man on the Moon.

    Our space capability seems to be following a similar path, where the previous system stifled space exploration from achieving many of the plans of the 1960s, but now that we are moving more toward capitalism in space, private companies are working to achieve those plans, and they seem to be succeeding.

    Well, look at that. There is something to be thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner, this year, and it is practically the same thing that the Pilgrims were thankful for.

  • Michael Mangold

    I had no idea there were so many more launches in the 60s.

  • Rodney

    The large number of launches all through the 60s is a function of the Corona effect. There was a Cold War need for continual photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union. The Corona satellite filled the bill, except it used film. When the film ran out. The satellite was useless. Hence the need to launch another Corona spy sat. Eventually, the technology moved to digital imaging with the “keyhole” satellites and the number of launches correspondingly decreased. This all worked out. Corona used revamped Atlas missiles and the KH satellites launched on Titan IIIs.
    As a side note. I believe the original Shuttle design was sold as a method for “servicing” spy sats (reloading film cartridges). Of course, the need for the large number of flights had vanished by the time the ink was dry on the Shuttle’s development contract.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “As a side note. I believe the original Shuttle design was sold as a method for “servicing” spy sats (reloading film cartridges). Of course, the need for the large number of flights had vanished by the time the ink was dry on the Shuttle’s development contract.

    What timing. Scott Manley just made a video on this topic: (13 minutes)

  • Michael Mangold

    Edward and Rodney, thank you so much for that information. Absolutely fascinating.

  • Edward

    I got so excited about the timing of your note, yesterday, that I forgot to comment on your hilarious joke: “The large number of launches all through the 60s is a function of the Corona effect.

    Back in the day, when I was designing science instruments for satellites and spacecraft, we had to be careful about high voltage and corona effect.

    The main problem we had with corona was electromagnetic interference and noise on our signal or noise on the input to the instrument. Either way, it could mess up the science.

    Below a certain voltage, about 150 V for air, somewhat less for helium, etc., corona does not happen, but above those voltages, watch out! I don’t really like the descriptions that I found online, because they don’t really describe the problems and solutions that we dealt with. It is an effect that also depends upon the gas pressure and the distance to the “target” surface.

    An air molecule (or helium, or whatever) becomes ionized when it contacts the first surface, the charged surface, and bounces off heading toward the other surface. If the pressure is high enough, then the molecule bounces off of too many other molecules, before it reaches the second surface, to cause corona. If the distance is far enough, then the molecule bounces off of too many other molecules to cause corona. There are, of course, other discharge phenomena, but they aren’t corona.

    Because we wanted to prevent corona, low voltage and distance were usually our friends, because we had little control over the pressure, especially for items that had to operate during ascent through the atmosphere. Distance was often difficult to control, because space instruments want to be both lightweight and small in size. Voltage was often difficult to control, because certain sensors depended upon high voltages to work properly. Often the best solution was to not turn on the space instrument until several days after launch in order to allow plenty of time for the internal pressure to drop below the corona effect level.

    Lockheed Martins first launch of its Athena small launch vehicle failed, and during the investigation one of my colleagues was consulted by the investigation team and realized that Athena’s guidance gyros were subject to corona discharge during a part of its ascent. Often a failure investigation makes such close scrutiny of the system that more problems are discovered than just the immediate and root causes of the failure, helping to avoid some future failures.

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