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.

Confirmed: Perseverance sample was too crumbly and poured away

Perseverance scientists have confirmed that the reason their sample container was empty once stored on the rover was because the material that they had drilled into was more crumbly than expected, and when the core was extracted from the ground the powder simply poured out of the core tube.

The team has decided to move on.

Rather than try again with the cratered floor fractured rough, Perseverance has already departed the area and is heading towards a region named South Séítah, which likely contains layered sedimentary rocks that are more similar to the Earth rocks that engineers drilled during tests before the mission’s launch. “We are going to step back and do something we are more confident of,” says Trosper. The rover will try to drill a core there, perhaps in early September. When it does, engineers will pause the automated drilling process to check whether a core has been extracted before the rover takes the next steps of sealing the tube and storing it away.

While it makes sense to find a different place to drill for a core sample, it appears that Perseverance is designed in a manner that it can do no analysis of any drill hole material:

Curiosity and Perseverance are similar in many respects — Perseverance was actually built using much of the leftover hardware from Curiosity — but there is one major difference in how they drill into the Martian surface. Curiosity intentionally grinds rock into powder, which it then places inside analytical instruments it has onboard to conduct scientific studies. NASA designed Perseverance to extract intact cores that slide into its sampling tubes. So crumbly rocks are good for Curiosity, but not for Perseverance.

If Perseverance can do no analysis of any drillholes, this limits the science it can do significantly. While putting aside samples for later return to Earth is an excellent idea, to make this the priority so that Perseverance can analyze nothing seems a terrible decision. What if that sample return mission never gets built?

If my supposition here is correct it also means NASA’s repeated claim that Perseverance is searching for ancient life on Mars is even more of a lie than I had assumed. It isn’t merely that this claim is a distortion of Perseverance’s actual research goals — to study the geology of Mars — the rover can’t look for ancient life. It has no way of looking at any samples it digs up.

I am not sure if my conclusions here are entirely correct. For example, maybe they hope to find this alien evidence by looking at the sealed core samples they store. Unfortunately, I have no idea, because I am somewhat handicapped in describing Perseverance’s day-by-day operations because, unlike Curiosity, the Perseverance team is providing no regular updates of their operations at their blog. While the Curiosity team posts something at least twice a week, the Perseverance team has posted nothing since just after landing in February. I’ve emailed NASA about this, but have gotten no response.


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  • Mark

    Bob I guess you have not heard that NASA does not have the budget to post to a Blog twice a week. Here is a description of the unfunded Blog department and positions that are awaiting increased funding:. We all need to call our congressional representatives to fix this.

    Perseverance (P) & (I) Ingenuity Blog Department
    12 Positions required but unfunded

    P&I Blog Director

    P & I Blog Manager

    P Blog Lead

    I Blog Lead

    Three P Blog Specialists

    Two I Blog Specialists

    One Social Media Liason

    Two Interns

  • Mark: That’s ridiculous. They shouldn’t need twelve people to run that blog. All they should need is one person to manage it and then assign (and pay like freelancers) a rotating crew of scientists from their team to post updates on it periodically.

  • I should add that the updates on the Curiosity blog are generally short and simple, and can’t possibly take more than an hour or so to write. All they do generally is provide a quick overview of the rover’s planned activities for the next day or so. Sometimes the writer adds other details, but rarely so much to make this work anything more than a very small part time task.

  • Mark

    FYI a relative of mine who reads the New York Times looked at my comment above and accused me of “trafficking in misinformation,”. So I checked my notes to find my source on the budgeting issue for the Perseverance (P) & (I) Ingenuity Blog Department.
    I uncrumpled the piece of paper in the wastebasket in my home office, and I looked at my notes. I had spilled coffee on the paper and I couldn’t find my reading glasses, but I think I saw the initials ‘BB’ next to my notes. Maybe those initials stood for ‘The Babylon Bee’. Who knows? I hope I have not broken any commenting rules because I don’t want to suspended from one of my favorite blogs.

  • Ryan Lawson

    Mark your sarcasm wasn’t spotted because it was, sadly, too easily believable.

  • Ryan Lawson: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. It is totally believeable that NASA would make such a ridiculous and idiotic budget request.

  • Gary

    Sort of related, but an article on JPL’s plan for Ingenuity 2.0. Really excited for the potential of these “air rovers” to expand our horizons on Mars. The pace of the “trundlers” is understandably slow. Increasing the capabilities of the copters is next level.

  • flatdarkmars

    I don’t disagree with you, but when you ask “What if that sample return mission never gets built?”, I think the answer is that NASA is counting on Congress being susceptible to the sunk costs fallacy. “We have all these samples on Mars… it would be a shame to just leave them there!”

    By the time Congress funds a sample-return mission, NASA will probably be able to just hire SpaceX to pick them up.

  • John

    The new mission can land on Mars, travel overland to the sample, grab it, stow it, presumably go get the rest of the samples, launch them back into orbit, and then leave orbit and return to Earth.

    It can can do all that, but drilling and/or scooping its own samples would be too much.

    I never understood the sample packaging for later return thing.

  • Edward

    John wrote: “I never understood the sample packaging for later return thing.

    The advantage is that you run two rovers over the exact same territory to do a job that could have been done with two rovers over different territory. You get one mission for the price of two.

    There is no cost advantage, nor is there a science advantage.

  • pzatchok

    I work with a geologist.
    I showed him the pictures of the sampling device.

    His immediate question was “Why didn’t they use a sampler that had a clam shell closer inside the end? He used them doing his Geology work.”

    Considering they have 25 or so sampling heads why not have a few that can capture sand and dust?

  • Jeff Wright

    I have a bone to pick with planetary scientists in general and JPL in specific. They tried to rob MSFC funds for LV development back when no one knew what an Elon was. Say what you will about SLS-but it was its supporters like Culberson that got Europa Clipper funded….only to get stabbed in the back. Worse, I heard Ann Druyen about a year ago attack the military, when that Pale Blue Dot was only made possibile by three ICBM programs that gave us solids, balloon tanks…and the Titan itself the Voyagers used for a ride. SDI thrusters allowed for for all those tiny bomb-disposal robots to begin with. But while they may cheer for the death of in-house LV development at Marshall….their own skill set of shaving off every last ounce will ALSO go the way of adjusting the vertical hold on tube TVs, if Musk does move hundreds of tons to orbit needing off the shelf tech. Maybe that’s why they hated shuttle-derived HLLV plans like ALS/NLS beyond having to compete with it for funding! But rocket guys? They are used to abuse.

    There is an old saying: “if we don’t hang together, we’ll all hang separately.” Orion needed work. Bumping it for Clipper or something could have given JPL and MSFC a win…but you bit the hand that fed you…and it is now a fist. I might be last here to cry when Marshall is shuttered…but when JPL is eaten last? I will be the first to howl with laughter!

  • Gary

    I’m hoping the “grab the samples for return” will be simplified by Martian copters which could cover more ground more quickly than any rover and return the samples to a central collection and launch point.

  • Dave

    There is a different Perseverance Blog that has its first entry on August 4th, 2021. URL follows:

    There are 3 entries. Aug 4th, 5th, and 11th. They are also sharing nearly 45,000 raw images on a link from that page.

  • Dave: Thank you. they must have finally heard my complaints. Why they changed the url on me without announcement however illustrates again the managerial failures at NASA. (The old url is still active, but shows no updates nor any info on finding them.)

  • Mark

    Dave that is great news. It looks like the funding came through for the Perseverance & Ingenuity Blog Department. LOL!!!

  • Gary

    “Dave that is great news. It looks like the funding came through for the Perseverance & Ingenuity Blog Department. LOL!!!”

    Mark, they probably stole it from the Marshall Center budget. ;)

  • Jeff Wright

    Errr….wouldn’t surprise me :/

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