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.

Bloomberg editorial: Scrap SLS!

I wonder who has said this before? In a scathing Bloomberg editorial yesterday, the news service called for President Biden to scrap the Space Launch System (SLS) and let private enterprise do the job instead.

The editorial’s opening sentence will sound very familiar to regular readers at this website:

Why is the U.S. government building a space rocket? In particular, why is it building a space rocket that has cost nearly $20 billion and counting, is years behind schedule, relies on outdated technology, suffers by comparison to private-sector alternatives, and has little justification to begin with?

That a major leftwing news source is beginning to endorse private enterprise and lambast SLS is a further sign that the political winds are blowing hard against this giant wasteful boondoggle. Should anything at all go wrong in its upcoming test schedule expect to see more such calls, coming from even more unlikely and unexpected places.

The lumbering thick-headed Washington political community is beginning to finally move towards the right conclusion, only a decade late.


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  • Gary

    I look forward to your next appearance on The Space Show to hear what John in Fort Worth thinks about SLS developments.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Paywalled, but who cares anyway? Just another example of the self-appointed elites telling us something most of us have known for years, and expecting us to pay to watch them finally stumble onto the truth!!

  • Steve Richter

    Is there any explanation as to what the difficulty was? Any advantages to solid fuel? No need for fuel tanks, pumps, lines and refrigeration.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Steve Richter…. Wrong thread? @ Bob and everyone else, where is the best place, ( apart from here obviously! ) To get updates on Perseverance? I’m itching to see the first colour photos, but have spent a fruitless time clicking around the NASA website, and can’t seem to find a dedicated mission site….

  • Chris Lopes

    We all pretty much predicted that SLS would eventually be cancelled as it ate more and more of NASA’s budget with nothing to show for it. The success of SpaceX just made it easier as we now have a viable commercial alternative for what SLS was supposed to do. No one will mourn its passing.

  • LocalFluff

    @Lee Stevenson
    That’s because Perseverance landed on the far side of Mars, which has an rotational period of 24 hours and 40 minutes. So it has been in radio shadow. Orbital mechanics dictate that this is the most economical and safe way to do it. The landing could be relayed through a Mars orbiting satellite (MRO I think) that was in line of sight of both the spacecraft and Earth at the time. The landing timing was planned that way.

    Direct communication from the rover has reached Earth beginning less than 12 hours after landing. NASA says they are “scrolling through images” and closing up on interesting rocks already.

    This is the best site for first updates on Perseverance:

    As I type this they have a live stream taking questions and such, but I see no high resolution images published yet. I bet that this weekend we’ll have loads of them.

  • Yo: Raw images will appear here. I expect that in a week or so they will begin posting them as soon as they get them, as they do with Curiosity here.

  • LocalFluff

    The SLS crime problem will (dis)solve itself as it scraps itself and its absurd launch installation on the first launch attempt, if the fraudsters are ever pushed to pretend an attempt, Atlas Shrugged/Soviet N1 style. And I will be rejoiced as the fire ball of 90 tons of fuel ends that joke as its punch line!

    John in Fort Worth has become a third party voter.

  • LocalFluff

    Did I type 90 tons of fuel? Arghh! That’s just the poor payload incinerated.
    It’s about 1,700 tons of fuel. It’ll be a Big Bada Boom.

  • Jeff Wright

    Bloomberg gets it wrong yet again. I am going to explain this one more time. Musk doesn’t do hydrogen. VULCAN doesn’t carry enough to make nuclear thermal worth while. Mike Griffin knew the EELV lobby wanted hydrogen leaking depots. Libertarians don’t understand infrastructure any better than Greens do-they are villains for destroying frac’ing jobs and lives- which will do nothing to stop climate change with untouched China burns coal. Libertarians ALSO want to wreck jobs and lives by killing SLS out of zealot nonsense. Your taxes won’t drop- and you will also hurt workers.Both libertarian off-shorers and NIMBY Greens wrecked American industry-and you lot are still doing it. I get that you new spacers have concerns with old space-that is part of why I support SLS to begin with-for ULA hates it too. In the end-we need each other. There will always be bloat. But the fact that old space employs so many people means that space advocates like us have broader support-a counter-constituency harder for anti-space greens to silence than if it was Musk alone. If we don’t hang together, we will all hang-together.

  • Mike Borgelt

    That’s about the most tortured excuse for SLS I’ve seen.

  • Richard M

    Hello Jeff,

    SLS is simply not a rocket NASA can afford to operate.

    And it will operae on such a low cadence that its safety amd reliability have to be in question.

    We’ve moved past the point where NASA needs to be launching its payloads.

  • Jeff Wright

    Tortured? Hardly. The fact that lefty Bloomberg wants SLS to die-that alone should be all the reason you need to support it. No worries-my fellow Alabamians need only travel a few miles to Decatur.So if SLS dies at your hands-it is only a matter of time before Bloomberg writes another article about how Musk will “contaminate” Mars. Much better to have a smaller, more easily cleaned lander using scores of smaller cleaner upper stages also launched by Vulcan. THAT is what the next article will say. So after you libertarians have your victory and dance on SLS’ grave, nice woke ULA will then target their other enemy-and dance on Starship’s grave in return. My state will still have jobs either way, in the end. But don’t let me stop you from your circular firing squad.SLS and Starship will both die, and ULA wins in the end. You know something? You have convinced me! I see the error of my ways. Now, you will excuse me of course-I have an article to write. As for whether I send it in or not, depends on you. This Pandoras box? We open it up together, or not at all.

  • Jeff Wright

    To Richard, America afforded well over shuttle missions. It didn’t get quite the same hate. NASA just needs better funding, not axes. Despite the tone of my post above-done to prove a point-I do wish Starship well in fact-SLS will be a fall back and a NTR asset.

  • LocalFluff

    @Jeff Wright
    I’m libertarian. But that is not important here (other than it means that I understand reality and don’t live in a fog of imaginations and fanatical political partisanship).

    I am telling you what will actually happen. SLS will never fly. Most likely it will detonate on the launch pad. Corrupt government bureaucrats cannot build a rocket. Not even SLS that is much more expensive and takes more than twice as long as Saturn V to build, while having less capacity. (actually, SLS has already cost more than all developments of all launchers together ever!) SLS will fail humiliatingly because launching anything to space has never been on the mind of any of the fraudsters involved. That’s just unfounded lies they that they jaw in order to fool idiots who refuse to understand anything and prefer to remain stupid and fail. Their only thought has always only been to steal tens of billions of dollars from NASA, to the serious detriment of all spaceflight and all astronomy. They think about spaceflight as something that they can destroy to greedily make themselves filthy rich. With silly fools cheering them on.

    This is not “a point of view”. This is how things actually are in reality.

  • Jeff Wright

    Unless sabotaged, SLS will likely launch before Starship makes it to orbit. You would not want Gary to gloat over more starship explosions and use that as an excuse to have starship killed. The SLS folk here that I know cheer Musk-haven’t “stolen” a dime-and wish their fellow space advocates well. A shame such good will isn’t shared. ASTP had more of that shared respect from the ruskies than Marshall gets from their fellow Americans I see. It’s the same as spitting on vets in my book. I wish more SLS guys would post here, but they’re busy. But the way things are headed, they will lose their jobs same as oil and gas workers. I hope that makes you happy.

  • LocalFluff

    @Jeff Wright
    I do hope that SLS blows up on the first launch attempt, so that the fraud will be terminated and NASA can start spending those billions on spaceflight instead. But it is also an objective prediction, there’s not much point in hoping for the unlikely.

    I too would like to hear from SLS advocates. I’m glad you are here! So what are your main arguments for SLS? How do you compare it to other launchers? We seem to see things differently and I don’t understand your preference for it.

    I come from comparing costs and benefits with alternatives. And evaluating how the project has been managed, most easily compared with how other launcher development projects have been managed. A twin of SLS, in terms of most basic concept, was Energia developed in Soviet 1976-1991. The Soviet engineers were much less politically controlled and corrupt than the military industrial complex NASA suppliers today, and free to do some good engineering. They got the design right from the start. Compared with the space shuttle, the Soviets put the main engines on the main tank (the drawback being that they were thus not reusable). They designed the Zenit kerosene boosters to work also as independent launchers, and the last of 31 (28 successes) was launched in 2017. Energia carried their shuttle Buran to orbit once, uncrewed because they designed it with that ability. And it launched the 80 ton Polys military spacecraft without carrying the shuttle.

    SLS was the idea to launch the shuttle system without the orbiter. A quick and cheap solution when the orbiter had been deemed to dangerous for human flight. But NASA with suppliers have spent a decade rebuilding everything from the assembly hall to the crawler and launch pad and on and on. At a huge cost. They really should have bought rights to use Energia instead. Already JFK wanted to join space programs with the Russians (and the other Soviet nations not to be forgotten). And in 1991 the golden opportunity for that had come. But was lost.

  • Jeff

    @ Lee Stevenson

    I’ve found the Unmanned Spaceflight forums to hold a wealth of information as well as citizen image wizards tweaking the latest downloads from many different spacecraft.

  • Jeff Wright

    Now we agree on Energiya, Local fluff. I want massive amounts of LH2 to orbit for nuclear thermal. SLS is all that’s left.

  • Jeff Wright

    Oh, I forgot something—here is a Mars plan with abort options…

    Here is how I see things. Gateway is added onto-solar electric panels, etc. It gets sent to Mars unmanned-with Orion docked to a fuel-fat Agena-like insertion stage for Earth return. With ample water just under the surface, the methalox method is abandoned. Hydrogen and oxygen are harvested in a biconic aeroshell pre-positioned there. SpaceX launches the Mars Base Camp lander of Lockheed. Two SLS rockets launch back to back-one with hydrogen and a NTR engine, the other with hydrogen and lox for a Stan Borowski afterburner-power generator. The two fuel modules are linked together and the lander becomes the command module. The nuclear drive gets the crew there quick, and the topped off lander docks with the Gateway for check-out. The NTR section becomes part of Gateway. The lander comes down and is refueled. After surface exploration-the lander ascends, and docks with Gateway. The lander remains docked-left in place. The crew then get into Orion and return to Earth. The big Agena, now empty, becomes a tethered counter-weight for Orion’s artifical gravity. Orion cuts that loose-burns its service module to depletion, then re-enters using a skip like Apollo.

    SpaceX just doesn’t do hydrogen. Super-Heavy will take some time-and I worry that Starship will require Shuttle-level complexity to work. SLS has stage-and-a-half to orbit system potential. An external tank type wet workshop does not need landing legs or heat shields-it is reusable as floor space-and I think it worth its price as a fall back. Now, the thing about my plan is the abort options. If the NTR cluster fails, the basecamp lander can detach and burn home early. The hypergolic stretch Orion can perhaps play a role. The Gateway solar electric drive is yet another option. The goal is to open up possibilities-not kill them off. I

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Jeff Wright:

    I like it. It’s flashy, it’s got all the nifty moving parts, and it will keep our old-space infrastructure in bloat for at least another 50 years. NASA has floated a similar proposal, and the price tag exceeds a half a trillion dollars, with a “t”. That’s a good thing for an agency with unlimited funds to work at, especially the nuclear drive option.

    Some thoughts:

    SpaceX doesn’t do hydrogen. It’s tricky to work with. The engineering to use it at cryogenic temps is daunting, and the marginal gains from the slightly higher ISP are more than offset by the required larger tankage and heavy equipment. SpaceX ran the numbers; compared to methane, hydrogen came up lacking across the board. So, SpaceX doesn’t do hydrogen.

    Starship/Super Heavy complete the initial SpaceX solution both to and from orbit, and to and from far off worlds. In-space refueling, again only using those two elements, offers a simple, effective solution to move cargo off-world, and to far off places. Not easy to accomplish, true. However, I would not bet against the SpaceX engineering team completing and operating it as reliably as aircraft. The system pays for itself as it is developed, similar to their solution for maturing Falcon 9/Heavy.

    Stating that SpaceX will complexify Starship to Shuttle levels in order to work on one hand when you can watch Starships being cranked out in a tent on a live webcast RIGHT NOW, and then in turn offering a system that:

    – relies on multiple launcher types, several of which cost multiple billions per use, and will never be re-used
    – drive technology that doesn’t exist, and will take (by NASA’s own estimates) several decades for a sizable working prototype
    – a fleet of disparate parts that all must work flawlessly, several as one-offs, which are then largely thrown to flaming bits in some atmosphere, or left to eternally orbit the sun
    – again, several lander types, several of which also are one-offs
    – all of this being done on a maybe a bit more than NASA’s current budget, thus adding decades on to this singular mission
    – finally, itty bitty living space!

    Ka Wow. Breathtaking.

    At first, I could not tell if you were using sarcasm.

    In any case, what you propose will likely be done collaboratively by several world governments, and using much of the elements you describe, at astronomical cost.
    Right alongside will be several private industries, either self funded like SpaceX and Blue Origin, or contracted by said governments.
    The market will determine success or failure for all.

    It’ll exciting to watch how it all unfolds. An amazing time to be alive!

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Oh, and one more thing:

    Starship/Super Heavy has no controlling ties to any entity but SpaceX. No one can “cancel” it except SpaceX itself.

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright,
    You have made several comments in the past couple of weeks that suggest you would prefer that our launch vehicles and spacecraft be as fuel efficient as possible. Although this seems commendable, the problem that we are having with space right now is the cost to get there and to operate there. This high cost has severely limited the number of people and companies that can be productive in space. The result has been to kill off possibilities, not open them up.

    The price of access is a limiting factor. The Space Shuttle was a nice idea, but its execution did not provide the rapid expansion of space activity that it had promised. Almost half a century after Skylab, we only have six people working in space, and no government has announced a plan to enlarge that number. The lack of shared goodwill is because we are no longer willing to accept the government’s low-result/high-cost space effort. The government has had its chance and flubbed it. It is time to move away from the central-control philosophy and give free market capitalism its turn. So far, that has worked out well.

    When you let government be in control, all you get is what government wants. When We the People take control, we get what we want.

    A major benefit of having a larger number of competitors vying for cost efficiency rather than technical efficiency is that the number of customers increases. This applies to various exploration, research, manufacturing, and other productive endeavors. Over time, we will improve the technical efficiencies, but for now we must give ourselves a reason to do so. A great many people are employing new thinking in order to change our slow, non-methodical expansion into space to a fast, profitable — thus useful — expansion into space.

    Another of the disappointing aspects to SLS (and Ares) is the regression from reusability, as investigated by the Space Shuttle, to the expendability of Apollo. Rather than learn from the problems of the Shuttle, Congress directed NASA to regress to Apollo’s expendable philosophy and methodology. This is a reason why SLS gets more complaints than the Shuttle did; regression is worse than learning from the Shuttle’s shortcomings.

    Although you, Jeff Wright, misinterpret our desire for cost efficiency and for advancement in technology and methods as hatred for SLS, it is really only the left who hate so easily, not the right. I can understand why you are so confused on this point, you may be projecting your feelings as other people’s thoughts. (In case you don’t already know, LocalFluff is not a libertarian but is left-wing.) Many of us see the SLS as yet another costly project that will only produce a low rate of results. We grow weary of government not taking seriously the promise of space, and we are ready to go it ourselves.

    Just as Robert does, you seem to conflate Starship’s development phase with SLS’s verification phase. Starship loses so many of its test articles because they are researching techniques that seemed unthinkable. You seem to be one of those who feels that these techniques will not work. There are so many Starship test articles in production because this kind of research necessarily has failures. SLS has only one vehicle ready for verification testing because they are about to enter production. For Starship research, failure is an option. For SLS validation, failure is a problem — even a disaster.

    Rocket Lab and SpaceX, along with smallsats and CubeSats (developed by professors Jordi Puig-Suari and Bob Twiggs), are allowing space exploration by We the People, and we are catching up with government exploration. The result is that possibilities are now being opened up rather than killed off.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Well said, Edward.

    I don’t hate SLS. I just don’t see it as any part of the path that leads to me retiring on Mars, or in an O’Neill type habitat.

    SLS will serve it’s brief purpose, and then it will be summarily dismissed as the many better options ramp up service.

  • Mitch S.

    “Congress directed NASA to regress to Apollo’s expendable philosophy and methodology.”

    The original rationale behind the project was the idea that using leftover Shuttle engines and simple, proven tech will quickly yield an economical way to space so we won’t be left reliant on the Russians when the Shuttle retires.
    So SLS uses leftover Shuttle parts (that’s why it uses hydrogen – were it a clean sheet perhaps it’s engineers would have reached the same conclusion as Space X, as Edward explained) and is a simple, non-reusable design. Yet it’s now the most expensive rocket and it still hasn’t launched. And SpaceX is already transporting our astronauts to ISS.
    SLS doesn’t have to blow up on the pad to fail – it’s already failed.
    (And I don’t hope it blows up, If we spent the money to launch it I hope it succeeds so the builders can see their baby fly – then retire it!)

  • George C

    The poorly researched Bloomberg editorial mentioned a watchdog but I could not see any clue as to what they were talking about. Anybody know what agency or group they are talking about? In a previous post I placed my bet that SLS will fly. Certainly all the engineers involved will be highly motivated to have a last success on their resume and managers like to keep things going long enough to find another job. All the parts seem to work. Why shouldn’t it fly? Just not a good solution for larger scale manufacturing and (re)use. There are a lot of public records here. A historian of big science or somebody working on a PhD in management could learn a lot about big science and big engineering.

  • George C: The watchdog was probably shorthand for numerous (and I mean numerous) GAO and inspector general reports over the last decade repeatedly describing SLS’s budget, scheduling, and management problems.

  • Edward

    Mitch S. wrote: “(And I don’t hope it blows up, If we spent the money to launch it I hope it succeeds so the builders can see their baby fly – then retire it!)

    Unlike Mitch S., several times, here on this site, I have read the sentiment that SLS blow up. It would be a shame for it to do so, because it would mean that all the care and attention to the development and validation had not gone right.

    I understand why some might expect such a spectacular failure, because a high percentage of first launches have failed. However, actively hoping for a failure or an explosion is rather mean spirited.

    The high cost and slow rate of development for SLS may be due to a risk averse culture in government. Money and time may have been squandered out of fear of the public reaction of a failure of the first launch. This fear may have also resulted in a high cost and low launch rate of SLS operations.

    For more than a decade, I have worried about how the public would react to the first failure of an operational manned commercial mission that results in the deaths of passengers. When I asked one of the XCOR executives in a Q&A after a speech, he said that the industry was preparing the public for such an event. In retrospect, this could explain SpaceX’s willingness to publicly display its failures, even to the point of making a video of failed booster landings, reminding us that getting to space is difficult and dangerous: (2 minutes: How not to land a booster)

    The major problem with SLS is not its technical capabilities, although I would rather that NASA had emphasized reusability as they did with the Space Shuttle, but it is with the cost efficiency. The high launch cost and the low launch rate makes it less useful than it should be or than it needs to be in order to open up space to the amount of exploration that for the past half century we had expected of NASA’s manned space program. The Apollo exploration of the Moon was far more rapid than SLS and Gateway can provide, and not too much more expensive. Considering manned space was new, back then, it is a shame that we are not doing significantly better now. It suggests that we have not learned very much about how to do it better than we did it half a century ago.

    Someone (in another thread) mentioned that NASA had thought it could cost 1/2 trillion dollars to go to Mars, but in the past half century NASA has spent somewhere around 1/3 of a trillion dollars on manned space, and in that time and for that money we have not even performed manned exploration of the Moon, as we had back then.

    Congress has squandered the talents, skills, and knowledge at NASA, and We the People are now expecting commercial space to make the achievements that we had expected NASA to do, these past few decades.

    Those of us who favor commercial space over government space do so because we expect that we will get what we want rather than what the government wants (which isn’t much), for a lower cost (by necessity), and faster (again, by necessity). But an exploding SLS does not get us there any faster, and it does not make any good points about space exploration.

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