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Flying Boeing’s Starliner capsule

Link here. The article provides some nice details about the way the spacecraft will operate (mostly by computer), with the astronauts monitoring and capable of taking over at any point.

Unlike Dragon, the control panel has no touchscreens. According to astronaut Chris Ferguson, the design was “borrowed a little bit from Orion, and it’s kind of the way some of the 5th generation military planes interact with pilots.” Not as fancy, but maybe more practical. I still have my doubts about the ability of astronauts to accurately press a touchscreen during the vibrations of launch.

There is something else, however, about this article that bugs me. It reads too much like an SLS update, filled with glowing reports that, in the case of SLS, are designed to disguise a program that is not going to meet its schedule. This is pure speculation based on nothing but instinct, but it is an impression I have and do not like.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


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.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Kirk

    Interesting that their priority “is to get the Crew Flight Test vehicle, spacecraft number 2, out the door” so that it can start its final vibration, pressure and acceptance testing in El Segundo, then shift work to the Orbital Flight Test vehicle “which does not have to go through the same procedures prior to its uncrewed test flight”.

    If Boeing doesn’t run into too many unexpected problems, they might be in a position to fly those two missions in quicker succession than SpaceX. SpaceX’s Dragon 2 which will fly their DM1 uncrewed mission in November, returning to a splashdown in December, must be refurbished in time for its In Flight Abort test in March, in advance of the DM2 crewed mission in April. A recent Teslarati article said that refurbishment of cargo Dragons takes a lot longer than that. I suspect that SpaceX will make it happen in time, but that refurbishment may be the gating factor for an April crewed flight.

  • It seems crewed spacecraft have come full circle (helix). From ‘Spam-in-a-can’ (Mercury) to crew-operated (Shuttle), back to automated capsules. The next-gen spacecraft look a lot like modern airliners: they can be flown, but the operators (airlines) would much prefer the computer do the flying.

  • Edward

    Kirk wrote: “A recent Teslarati article said that refurbishment of cargo Dragons takes a lot longer than that.

    Since the Flight Abort test does not go to orbit, it may not need a full refurbishment, thus it may be available sooner than would otherwise be expected.

    Blair Ivey wrote: “It seems crewed spacecraft have come full circle (helix). From ‘Spam-in-a-can’ (Mercury) to crew-operated (Shuttle), back to automated capsules.

    I suspect that the capsule design is due to the necessity to get CCDev flying sooner rather than later. Less development work was needed.

    I hope that Sierra Nevada’s spaceplane paradigm becomes the standard in the next decade. On the other hand, SN’s spaceplane may also be largely automated.

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