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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


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1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


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Lockheed Martin tests in-orbit cubesat rendezvous

Using two cubesats released separately after launch, Lockheed Martin has successfully tested maneuvering and rendezvous in space.

The two cubesats, each the size of a toaster, were deployed 300 kilometers above geostationary orbit from a ring-shaped secondary payload that carried multiple smallsats. They were released three days apart about 750 kilometers away from each other and a month later they were navigating within 400 meters of each other, Karla Brown, Linuss program manager, told reporters during a news conference at Lockheed Martin’s technology center at the Catalyst Campus.

One of the cubesats performed the role of servicing vehicle and the other was the resident space object. She said she expects the satellites to come even closer, to about 200 meters as the experiment continues. The more significant goal that was accomplished was proving AI algorithms that would be needed to perform a space servicing mission, Brown said.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of this project however is how it is funded. This is old-fashioned R&D (research & development), funded not by the government but by Lockheed Martin as part of a a suite of related in-space servicing projects. Before the arrival of the military-industrial complex post World War II, such work was always paid for in house by the private sector. This commercial R&D was often given great freedom to experiment, in the hope that it would result in new products producing profits.

With the arrival of lots of government money in the 1950s and 1960s, that private R&D money dried up. Big space companies would instead only do the research and development that was funded by the government, either by NASA or the Pentagon. As a result, innovation dried up as well.

The return of private R&D likely means we shall once again see more innovation, since it will once again be done to search out new innovative ways to do things.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Col Beausabre

    “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be research” – My Chemical Engineer Father

  • M Puckett

    Anybody remember Bell Labs?

  • M Puckett: Sure, and research labs like Bell Labs disappeared for the reasons I cite. The various telephone/communications companies that replaced Bell Labs had no interest in wild research not connected directly to business, unless the government paid for it. The discovery of the microwave background radiation by Bell Lab researchers would have never happened in the world that developed in the last half of the 20th century.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    “… wild research not connected directly to business …”

    This doesn’t actually describe the project that led to the discovery of the CMB. Penzias and Wilson were tasked with characterizing and eliminating sources of noise in satellite/ground communications, in the early 1960’s when communications satellites were just coming on-line and AT&T very much expected to make money off them. They were able to characterize and eliminate all but the last 3K …

  • Call Me Ishmael: Sure, there were business concerns related to this discovery, but the researchers at Bell Labs had enormous latitude on the research they did, and if it extended into other fields they had the freedom to explore that information.

    Such freedom vanished when all R&D came from government money.

  • john hare

    I think this may have some role in my lack of success in getting people interested in some ideas. It is frustrating as an inventor that the main early question is whether or not it could get grant money rather than if it would be useful. Not claiming as fact that my ideas would have worked, but my attitude towards government funding definitely put a damper on interest.

    That is on my aerospace stuff. The ones I do for my construction business have a fair technical success rate.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “The return of private R&D likely means we shall once again see more innovation, since it will once again be done to search out new innovative ways to do things.

    When we let government pay for R&D, all we get is what government wants. When we pay for it, we get what we want.

  • Jeff Wright

    Because suits in the business world have such a great R&D record. HA! Letting big biz gobble up other firms as your lord and savior Ayn allowed is what hurt America.

  • pawn

    The fact that the Chinese would soon copy any profitable product also put a huge damper on commercial R&D. Why do research and product development when the Chinese will get all the profits in the long run?

    This isn’t the same as Big Science research but it is just as erosive as government funding to the interests of R&D people which is getting payed.

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