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.

More parachute problems for Europe’s Franklin Mars rover

During a parachute drop test in late June, following a redesign of the parachute with U.S. help, engineers for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Mars rover found the chute still experienced problems that tore it during deployment.

They actually performed two drop tests, a day apart, using two different parachutes, with the first test apparently going off without a hitch. However, according to the press release:

“The performance of the second main parachute was not perfect but much improved thanks to the adjustments made to the bag and canopy. After a smooth extraction from the bag, we experienced an unexpected detachment of the pilot chute during final inflation. This likely means that the main parachute canopy suffered extra pressure in certain parts. This created a tear that was contained by a Kevlar reinforcement ring. Despite that, it fulfilled its expected deceleration and the descent module was recovered in good state.”

I have embedded below the fold the only video released by the European Space Agency. It is not clear whether this is from the first or second test. Near the end it appears that the pilot chute above the main chute might be separated, but the video ends before that can be confirmed.

Though ESA has apparently improved the chute’s performance significantly since its earlier failures that contributed to the delay of ExoMars from last year to 2022, they still haven’t gotten the chute completely right. Fortunately they still have time to get it fixed before that ’22 launch.


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  • Lee Stevenson

    It makes me scratch my head that space agencies, especially NASA and ESA don’t share mutually beneficial tech such as landing parachutes for Mars. I know that NASA has been helping out with the testing of ESA’s parachute, but surely there is a person or team there that could point out the problems?

    I don’t have a huge amount of faith in ESA’s ability to land and operate successfully a rover on Mars, it’s one more along with the James Webb on my “hope for the best…) List

  • Ray Van Dune

    I appreciate Lee Stevenson’s concern, but there are two factors that mitigate sharing expertise:
    1. Pride
    2. The real factor that the development experience gained is a significant benefit of designing and testing a née system, regardless of the system-specific knowledge gained.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Ray Van Dune, I have no doubt you are correct on the first point. As I have mentioned here before, I remember seeing a TV program, well over a decade ago, when Steve Squires went and had a look at the Exomars rover being built, and asked if he had any advice, he said 6 wheel steering had got spirit and opportunity out of many a sticky situation. The Exomars rover still has only front and back steering wheels. The middle set are fixed…. I guess time will tell who was right, but I won’t bet against Steve.

    As to your second point, surely shared experience is beneficial to all? Not just to share technology, but to share the research behind it. I don’t mean to make light of what is a genuinely difficult problem, but the US has landing on Mars nailed… Why doesn’t the ESA ask the US to design and build a parachute for them? We could even send you some genuinely tasty cheese and wine in return! ;-)

  • Edward42

    Pride may be preventing the ESA team from easily accepting shared experiences, but I think that the real problem stems from the fact that parachute technology is not as well understood as most people believe. ExoMars is using a new design, and the tried and true methods have not worked out as well as expected.

    This is why there is such extensive testing and so much trouble with new parachute designs (even on Starliner) but not as extensive testing or trouble with, for instance, new pressure vessel designs. (Even pressure vessels can be problematic. I have worked with a couple of vacuum chambers that needed C-clamps to hold the doors closed during initial pump down.)

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Edward42, an interesting tangent! I would have imagined that doors on a vacuum chamber would self seal… I am intrigued! Would you be willing to share more information?

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