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.

Hubble’s wide field camera returns to operation

Though the Hubble Space Telescope returned to science operations on March 12th after going into safe mode, its wide field camera did not.

Engineers however now report that they have successfully restored the camera to operations as well. The reason for the delayed restoration exemplifies Hubble’s aging status.

Analysis showed that voltage levels in WFC3 power supplies have slowly decreased over time as their electronics aged. The electronics experience colder temperatures when the hardware is turned off in safe mode. This factor coupled with the power the instrument components draw as they are turned back on contributed to the small voltage fluctuation that suspended WFC3 recovery operations. Further detailed analysis indicated that it would be safe to slightly reduce the low voltage limit to avoid a future suspend, and it would be safe to recover the instrument to its science state.

The instrument has now been safely recovered. Standard calibration of the instrument and other pre-observation activities will be conducted this week.

All the telescope’s equipment has been adjusted in recent years to deal with the varying ages of its instruments and its main structure. For example, this wide field camera was installed during the last shuttle serving mission in 2009, and is therefore one of Hubble’s newest components. It however is now more than a decade old, and thus needs careful handling to function properly.

Other components are far older, such as the primary motor to open and close the telescope’s “lens cap”. That failed during this safe mode, forcing engineers to switch to a back up motor to control the cap. Whether they can recover that primary motor is presently unclear, though unlikely.

Expect more such issues in the coming years.


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.


  • Steve Richter

    OT: story linked from Drudge today
    In regard to jetitisoning something from the ISS and sending it back to earth … if a person throws a ball from the ISS towards the Earth, would the ball stay in orbit? Or would it move at the rate and direction it was thrown, and pretty quickly fall to earth? ( which I guess also begs the question, can you throw a fastball on the ISS? )

  • Andi

    If you throw a ball from ISS directly towards the Earth, remember that the ISS (and hence the ball) is traveling at some 17,000 mph in orbit. Assuming you are a major league pitcher and throw the ball at 100mph at the earth, the ball’s resultant velocity will be the vector sum of 17,000 horizontally and 100 vertically. It will just assume a slightly different orbit than the ISS.

  • Steve Richter

    “… the ball’s resultant velocity will be the vector sum of 17,000 horizontally and 100 vertically. It will just assume a slightly different orbit than the ISS. …”

    I follow that the ball is orbiting the earth, just as the ISS is. Just do not understand why the ball does not not continue moving toward the earth at 100 mph.

  • wayne

    Steve / Andi

    -> I believe this is very enlightening. Manley discusses this exact situation in the first 5 minutes. (and, check out the math at around the 3:40 mark.)
    ((I can barely conceptualize orbital mechanics myself!))

    “The Most Confusing Things About Spacecraft Orbits”
    Scott Manley
    May 2018

  • Edward

    Steve Richter asked: “if a person throws a ball from the ISS towards the Earth, would the ball stay in orbit?

    Scott Manley’s video was the first thing that came to my mind, but wayne beat me to it. Keep in mind that every maneuver in space only changes the orbit. Manley’s video shows that the original downward motion of the ball turns into an upward motion half an orbit later. That is a good way to think about orbits when you don’t want to do the math.

    The reason for a ball to reach the Earth would be for the new orbit to have a low point, perigee, that is inside the atmosphere or that intersects the surface. As Manley pointed out, this would be about 1/4 orbit away from the point where the ball was thrown.

    There is a lot that is counterintuitive about orbital mechanics, making space navigation even trickier than Earth-bound navigation. If you view the video Manley references early on, you will get a little more information, specifically about throwing things in the retrograde direction, against the direction of the orbital motion. (8 minutes, “Could An Astronaut Throw Something From Orbit To Earth?”)

  • Steve Richter

    thanks for the Scott Manley link. Fascinating. Still do not understand.

    Maybe it helps me to think of a space craft travelling from Earth to Mars. But the straight line course of the craft takes it past Mars. As it passes Mars, the straight line course will be bent by Mar’s gravity. The further from Mars as it passes by, the less the course will be affected. And the closer the craft is to Mars as it passes by, the more the course will be bent. Too close and it starts to orbit, but then flings out at close to a 90 degree angle? But far enough away as the craft passes Mars and it will be captured into the orbit of the planet?

    Back to the ball and the space craft … if a ball is thrown from the craft at a 90 degree angle, that would put the ball in either a closer or further out orbit as both the craft and the ball pass by Mars.

    Not asking for an answer. Just thinking out loud.

  • Edward

    Steve Richter,
    Thinking in straight lines is misleading. Even traveling from Earth to Mars, the Sun’s gravity curves the path into an ellipse around the Sun. It adds to the complexity of the calculation to reach Mars.

    When something approaches from far away and is not in orbit around the planet, it requires a change in velocity in order to enter into an orbit around Mars. For our probes, this often occurs due to firing thrusters, but it can also happen by using Mars’s atmosphere to slow down to enter into an elliptical orbit. Without this change, the object would remain in a hyperbolic orbit, which does not go around the planet, in which it comes from far away and leaves to go far away again, just in a different direction.

    In this video, Astronaut Chris Hadfield gives a basic lesson in orbits, with the second part talking about docking with a space station: (16 minutes)

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 *