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.

A Lucy solar panel on Lucy fails to latch properly after deployment

Partly deployed panel

Engineers at Lockheed Martin (the prime contractor) and Northrop Grumann (which built the panels) are now troubleshooting an issue with one of the solar panels on the asteroid probe Lucy, which failed to latch properly after deployment.

The NASA graphic to the right illustrates this issue, though the graphic might not accurately portray the exact circumstance at Lucy. To get more solar power, Lucy’s panels are larger, and thus were designed to unfurl like a fan rather than the more commonly used accordion design. One panel has not completed that unfurling.

NASA’s announcement tries to minimize the issue but this quote from the link makes it clear that this could be a very big problem.

It’s not yet clear whether the array in question is, in fact, fully deployed but not latched in place or whether it did not reach full deployment and is not generating the same amount of power as its counterpart. It’s also not yet clear whether Lucy can safely fire its maneuvering thrusters with an unlatched array.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make 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.

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.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal 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

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • Mike

    Didn’t even have to get a million miles away to fail.

    Boondoggle does not even begin to properly describe this whole ordeal.

    Maybe they can get the x-37 over to latch the damn thing before it floats off into the great unknown…

    I had such high hopes for this instrument.

  • Richard M

    “Maybe they can get the x-37 over to latch the damn thing before it floats off into the great unknown…”

    It’s already on an Earth escape trajectory, out beyond lunar orbit, so that seems pretty unlikely…

    Still, even if Lucy’s engineers can’t get it to latch, it may not harm the mission if the array is mostly deployed (as suggested in the press release render). Mars Global Surveyor flew its entire mission with an unlatched array (though of a different design), including aerobraking at Mars in the Martian atmosphere using the panels as drag surfaces.

  • Richard M: That graphic is NOT an attempt to show the present situation. It is a graphic released before launch, that simply illustrates the design of those solar panels.

    NASA has presently given us no data on the actual state of the panel. Engineers are probably still trying to figure that out.

  • Richard M

    Hello Bob,

    “That graphic is NOT an attempt to show the present situation.” Absolutely – I did not mean to leave an impression to the contrary. There’s no publicly released information about just exactly how far depoyed that array is. I merely meant that IF the array is deployed as the render created before the mission depicts – and this is a big IF – then even if they *cannot* find a way to latch it, then it’s hard to see how it still wouldn’t be able to achieve something very close to 100% of its intended energy profile, assuming there’s no appreciable risk of the array folding back up.

    It’s not a doom scenario yet.

    Another thought that occurs to me, though: Goddard opted for circular arrays because they needed to be very large (51 square meters of solar cells) for the mission’s energy requirements out at Jupiter’s orbit, and the fairing size of the Atlas would not permit conventional “accordion” style arrays. This could be less of a worry with certain commercial heavy lift rockets in devolopment, particularly a certain very big one undergoing testing down in Boca Chica.

  • Localfluff

    I hope nothing similar happens to the furling or latching of the JWST.

  • Gealon

    I don’t understand this fascination with these pseudo-circular solar panels. All they do is add complication and more points of failure, to the most critical system on a space craft, it’s source of power. Furthermore, I have seen video of these panels being tested of, and of all the asinine things the engineers could have done, they made the substrate Flexible. I am an engineer myself and I cannot properly express how upset these design choices make me. These panels reek of this thing being designed in a committee, where people forced through in their favorite pet concepts rather than what would actually be best for the mission. Why? Why didn’t they use traditional, rigid, rectangular panels? Was this a weight or space issue? I can’t see how these panels could be significantly more efficient on either space or weight. Just look at Juno, no problems with it’s panels.

    I just… I can’t… I’m going to go have a cup of tea and sooth my offended K.I.S.S. principals with some Kerbal Space Program.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *